If you have been suffering knee pain and stiffness for awhile, you probably assume it is arthritis. You finally make an appointment with your doctor and, once there, you are sure he is going to tell you something that is going to make you feel old. Instead, he tells you that your knee pain isn’t arthritis. It’s bursitis.
Knee pain is among the most common ailments seen by orthopedic surgeons and rheumatologists. Sometimes it is caused by physical trauma caused during sports or physical overexertion. Sometimes it is caused by arthritis, and sometimes it is caused by bursitis.
What Is Bursitis?
This is a condition where the bursae, the small sacs of fluid that cushion joints, become inflamed. There are a multitude of bursae surrounding the knee joint, and when they become irritated they swell and cause pain, redness and even heat.
There are four common types of bursitis. The first is Anserine which is common in middle-aged individuals, typically those who are obese. It can be felt along the inside of the knee just below the line of the joint. Walking, climbing stairs and other activity can make it feel worse. It is often ignored because it accompanies osteoarthritis in the knee.
Treatment is usually in the form of topical anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, ice compresses and sometimes steroid injections.
The next type is Prepatellar. This affects bursa in the front of the kneecap. This is related to pressure caused by continuous kneeling. Plumbers, carpet installers and electricians are frequent sufferers of this type of the injury. Before treatment begins, an infection must be ruled out. Infected bursa must be treated first with antibiotics.
Infrapatellar affects the bursa that is located beneath the kneecap. It is also the type to affect those who work frequently while kneeling. Sometimes, this type is caused by trauma. Infection must also be ruled out before it is treated using conventional methods. Antibiotics would also be prescribed in the event an infection is present. Once a course of antibiotics has stopped the infection, the next steps in treatment can be taken.
Suprapatellar affects bursa above the kneecap. This is the most uncommon form, but it is found in patients who have some forms of arthritis. Most all types will respond to rest, NSAID pain relievers, kneepads, and ice compresses. More severe cases usually require some steroidal injections, but this is only administered following a confirming ultrasound.
If your doctor gives you the dreaded announcement that you have bursitis rather than arthritis, understand that this is easily treated. Always be sure any existing infection, however, is treated first.
Contact the top Houston Orthopaedic Surgeon: Dr. Mark S. Sanders, MD