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Knee Bursitis

Prepatellar bursitis, also known as housemaid’s knee, is a common cause of swelling and pain on top of the kneecap. The name “housemaid’s knee” comes from the association of this condition with individuals whose work necessitates kneeling for extended periods of time. Prepatellar bursitis is common in professions such as carpet layers and gardeners.

What are the causes of bursitis?

The inflammation that causes bursitis usually stems from an injury due to repetitive use or pressure. For example, bursitis of the shoulder is common among baseball pitchers and “housemaid’s knee” is the quaint name for bursitis related to spending too much time kneeling.
Repeated physical stress can cause bursitis in the following areas:

  • Shoulder. This typically occurs after trauma to the rotator cuff, the muscles and tendons that connect the upper arm to the shoulder blade. In addition to repetitive activities (such as throwing a ball), causes may include injuries from falling or lifting.
  • Elbow. This develops as a result of repetitive bending and extending of the elbow (from such activities as swinging a tennis racquet, but it also can occur from everyday activities such as pushing a vacuum cleaner back and forth). Habitually leaning on an elbow can also be to blame.
  • Buttocks. Typically, bursitis in the bursa over the bones in the buttocks comes from sitting on a hard surface for long periods, such as you would encounter if you ride a bike frequently.
  • Hip. This usually stems from osteoarthritis, a hip injury or the pressure from habitually standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
  • Knee. With this type of bursitis, you may see a soft, egg-shaped bump on the front of your knee. Repetitive kneeling while scrubbing floors, gardening, laying tiles or engaging in other activities that place pressure on your knees can trigger it. In addition, a sharp blow to the knee can inflame the bursae around the kneecap. You’re more susceptible to bursitis of the knee if you have osteoarthritis and are overweight.
  • Ankle. This usually follows from wearing improperly fitting shoes.

What are the symptoms of prepatellar bursitis?

The symptoms of prepatellar bursitis or knee bursitis include:

    • Swelling over the kneecap


    • Limited motion of the knee


    • Painful movement of the knee


    • The swelling of knee bursitis is within the bursa, not the knee joint itself. People often call any swelling of the knee joint “water on the knee,” but it is important to differentiate fluid accumulation within the bursa, versus fluid accumulation within the knee joint.


  • Symptoms of prepatellar bursitis are usually aggravated by kneeling, and relieve when sitting still.

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