What Causes Knee Bursitis to Flare Up

The bursae are small, slippery sacs filled with fluid that help the bones and muscles in your joints to glide more easily. When you have an acute knee injury or overuse your knee, you might start to suffer from a painful and debilitating condition called knee bursitis. Bursitis arises when the bursae are inflamed, usually from overuse. While this is treatable and temporary, it might flare up after a traumatic injury or heavy bouts of exercise. 

Bursitis can affect anyone, but it is most common in people who perform activities that require repetitive movement and people over the age of 40. For example, knee bursitis may affect someone who lays tile for a living since that job requires constant kneeling, as well as getting up and down from a kneeling position. Athletes can also develop bursitis in the knee. However, bursitis can also develop from trauma, such as receiving a sharp blow to the knee. 

While most cases of knee bursitis arise from using the knee, there are cases of septic bursitis that arise from infection. Septic bursitis is more likely to occur in people who consume excessive alcohol, take medications that suppress the immune system, or have diabetes or arthritis.

Repetitive Trauma 

When you participate in high-impact sports or repetitive physical tasks such as climbing stairs or ladders, your knees suffer mini-traumas every time you land on them. If you only do this in moderation, or your body is used to the exercise, and you have toned muscles that can absorb a lot of the impact, it is less likely that you will develop bursitis. 

However, if you increase your activity levels too rapidly or overtrain, your bursae can become inflamed due to damage to the bursa’s delicate lining. When the bursae are inflamed, the synovium produces excess synovial fluid. This fluid is essential for cushioning the joint and reducing friction so that the joint moves smoothly. However, if there is too much synovial fluid, the knee swells up, becomes inflamed, and becomes stiff and painful. The knee may feel warm, and it will be painful, stiff, and tender, and the area may become red and swollen.

Acute Trauma 

The bursa can be damaged if you suffer from a sharp blow to your knee, such as during a sports collision or a fall. The damaged bursa then fills with blood, which irritates its lining and causes it to become inflamed. Over time, the blood will get reabsorbed into your body, but the lining of the bursa might remain inflamed for many weeks. You will feel pain when you move your knee, but the pain may persist even when resting.

How Is Bursitis Diagnosed and Treated? 

The first step is to see your doctor and have your doctor examine your knee. Although bursitis is easily treatable, it is essential that you get a proper diagnosis since there are so many different parts of the knee that can be injured, and you need to rule out other causes of your pain. At TJN Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Dr. Tchejeyan (Dr. T, the LA Knee Guy) treats every type of knee injury, and you can be confident that you are in good hands. You will likely have an imaging test, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to confirm your condition. In some cases, a blood test may be necessary.

Bursitis often gets better on its own, so Dr. T might tell you that the key to recovery is rest, ice, and elevation of your knee. If an infection is causing the problem, you will need medication to reduce the inflammation. Walking devices like canes and physical therapy are sometimes necessary to regain mobility. If bursitis persists, it might have to be drained surgically, but that is rare.

Bursitis in the knee is a common condition caused by an overuse injury, an accident, or an infection. It is most often treated without surgery, especially when caught early and the patient follows all the doctor’s guidelines. Contact us at TJN Ortho to book an appointment with Dr. Gregory H. Tchejeyan.