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Knee Bursitis


  • Bursitis is swelling and pain of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion or shock absorber between a tendon and a bone. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects muscles to bones. Normally a bursa has a small amount of fluid in it. When injured, the bursa becomes inflamed and may fill with too much fluid. When you have an inflamed bursa in your patellar or kneecap area, you have knee bursitis. You may have inflammation in front of or behind the kneecap. You may also have it on the inner sides of your knees.
    Picture of a normal knee
  • Your knee bursitis may be caused by overusing your knee by doing sports or activities that use repeated movements. This includes running and jumping. You may have bursitis from putting constant pressure on your knees such as kneeling on a hard floor or surface. Your bursitis may be caused by a hard hit to the knees or an infection in the bursa. Sometimes it is not known what caused the bursitis.



  • Always take your medicine as directed by caregivers. If you feel it is not helping, call your caregiver. Do not quit taking it unless your caregiver tells you to.
  • Keep track of what medicines you are taking and when and why you take them. Bring a list of your medicines or the medicine bottles when you see your caregivers. Ask your caregiver for information about your medicines.
  • Antibiotics: You may be given antibiotics to fight infection if needed. Take them as ordered until they are all gone, even if your knee begins to feel better.
  • NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions on it before using this medicine.
  • Steroid injection: If your caregiver gave you a steroid injection, follow your caregiver's instructions. Rest your knee for as long as you are told to, even if your knee feels better.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

How can I take care of my knee bursitis at home?

  • R.I.C.E.: This is a four-step treatment plan that you can follow. R est, I ce, C ompress and E levate your knee to decrease swelling and help your knee heal.
    • Rest: The most important part of treating bursitis is resting your knee while it heals. Resting your knee may decrease swelling and keep the bursitis from getting worse. When the pain decreases, begin normal, slow movements.
    • Ice: Use ice for two to three days. Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps decrease inflammation. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag or use a bag of frozen corn or peas. Cover it with a towel. Put this on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times each day. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite. Your caregiver may also tell you to use an ice cube to massage your knee. To do this, rub the ice cube in gentle circles over the inflamed area.
    • Compress: You may wrap your knee with tape or an elastic bandage to keep your knee from swelling. Loosen the elastic bandage if your toes begin to tingle or turn blue.
    • Elevate: Lie down and elevate (raise) your knee by propping it on pillows. Raising it to a level above your heart may help decrease the swelling.
  • Heat: After two or three days, you may try using heat to decrease knee pain and stiffness. Use a hot water bottle, heating pad, whirlpool, or warm, moist compress. To make a compress, dip a clean washcloth in warm water. Wring out the extra water and put it on your knee for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times each day. Your caregiver may tell you to switch between treating your knee with ice packs, and heat treatments. Repeat ice and heat treatments as directed by your caregiver.

How can I protect my knees and help prevent knee bursitis?

  • Keep pressure off your knees. Use a soft foam pad or wear kneepads. Use them whenever you must kneel on a hard surface. This includes gardening and doing floor work such as scrubbing, tiling, or laying carpet. If you sit or kneel a lot, take pressure off your knees by standing up and walking around every 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Protect your knees from bumps and hits. Use kneepads if you play sports that may cause hits to the knee. These sports include wrestling, football, and basketball. Use kneepads to protect your knees if you fall often when riding a snowboard.
  • Start exercising when caregivers say that it is OK. Slowly start exercise, such as bicycling, when caregivers say that it is OK. Do not begin running or other heavy exercise until you no longer feel any pain, and your caregiver says it is OK. Elevate your legs and put ice packs on your knees after you finish exercising.
  • Stretch before exercising. Always warm up your muscles and stretch gently before exercising. Do cool-down exercises when you are finished. This will loosen the muscles and tendons in your thigh and calf which will decrease stress on your knees.
  • Start treatment right away if you feel bursitis swelling, warmth and pain. Follow the R.I.C.E. plan (rest, ice, compress, elevate) and use NSAIDs as directed by your caregiver.


  • Your pain and swelling increase.
  • You have pain in other joints.
  • You have new, unexplained symptoms.
  • You have a fever.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Knee Bursitis (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes