Knee pain can be frustrating and often hard to diagnose.
If the pain comes with swelling on the kneecap, above the knee, below the knee, or on the inside of the knee, it could be knee bursitis.
The safest way to treat it is with stretches and exercises for knee bursitis. This is an easy way to reduce pain and strengthen the knees to lessen the chances of further inflammation.
Let’s have a look at what you need to know about knee bursitis.
What is Knee Bursitis?
Bursae are synovial fluid-filled sacs that allow skin, bones, muscles, and tendons to move freely by reducing friction.
Bursitis is when one of the bursae around the knee becomes irritated or inflamed and produces too much fluid, which causes pain and swelling in your knee.
There are eleven bursae in the knee alone, but only the four major bursae are prone to inflammation. You may be able to tell which bursa sac is inflamed by the location of the swelling.
If you have swelling on your kneecap then the prepatellar bursa is inflamed, while swelling above the knee could be from an irritated suprapatellar bursa.
Swelling below the knee can indicate that the infrapatellar bursa is irritated and inflamed. If you notice swelling around the inside of the knee towards the top of the shin bone, then the pes anserinus bursa could be inflamed.
Causes and Symptoms of Knee Bursitis
Bursitis often occurs when pressure is placed on the knee for a long period of time, from chronic overuse, an injury, or from repetitive motion. Symptoms of bursitis can come on suddenly, but it most often develops over time.
Knee bursitis can also be caused by other health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Both conditions cause inflammation that can irritate and place pressure on the bursae.
You’ll often notice that the area around the irritated or inflamed bursa is warm and tender to the touch. It can sometimes affect your range of motion.
Who Can Develop Bursitis?
If you spend extended periods of time on your knees when gardening or work as a roofer, carpet layer, plumber – or any other job that causes you to kneel frequently, then you’re at a higher risk of developing bursitis.
You’re also at a higher risk of developing knee bursitis if you participate in sports such as volleyball, wrestling, and football.
Those who do physical activities that have a repetitive movement of bending the knees, like running or squatting, are at a higher risk of developing bursitis on the inner side of the knee, just below the knee.
If you’re overweight, you can place your knee joint under pressure with excess weight. This can increase your risk of developing knee or hip bursitis.
Can Strength and Stretching Exercises Help with Knee Bursitis?
Yes, strength and stretching exercises can help with knee bursitis.
But you’ll need to make sure that the exercises that you do are low-impact and won’t aggravate the bursitis.
Gentle strengthening and stretching exercises can help to improve your knee function, reduce knee stiffness, correct muscle imbalances, and increase flexibility. This will also help you to maintain good physical condition. Just be sure you are wearing the high-quality footwear made for bad knees.
Before starting any physical activity, make sure that you warm up effectively and gradually increase the time, amount of reps, or intensity of the activity. You may need to wear a knee brace for bursitis after exercising.
Knee Bursitis Stretches and Exercises
Seated Hamstring Stretch
To do this exercise, begin by sitting on the edge of a chair with the painful leg straight ahead. Make sure to keep your back straight as you lower your torso as close as you can to your thighs.
Keep pushing yourself gently lower until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Return to an upright position and switch legs. Perform this stretch 2 to 3 times on each leg.
Standing ITB Stretch
The iliotibial band can become tight and painful when the knee is injured. This tightness can even cause the pain in your knee to feel worse. To perform this exercise—which will stretch the IT band—begin by standing with both feet flat on the floor.
Move your painful leg behind the other one about 6 inches, so you are standing with your legs slightly crossed. Raise the same arm as your injured leg and bring it up next to your ear.
Maintaining a straight back and good posture, lean slightly over to the other side—away from the painful side. For example, if your left hand is raised, bend slightly towards your right-hand side. You should feel a stretch in the IT band.
Hold for 30 to 60 seconds before returning to a neutral position. Switch legs and perform 2 to 3 repetitions on both legs.
Hamstring Stretch on Wall
For this stretch, lie on the floor in an open doorway. Your buttocks should be slightly before the doorway.
Allow your good leg to lie straight out through the doorway. Lift your injured leg and rest it on the wall next to the door.
Try to straighten your knee as much as possible until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg—hamstring.
Once you feel the stretch, hold the position for up to 30 seconds then return to the original position. Repeat this 3 times.
To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, near a wall or chair for support. Bend one knee so your foot rises up behind you and grab your ankle with your hand. Pull your leg towards your glutes until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
Hold this position for up to 30 seconds before lowering your leg again. Switch legs and do 8 to 12 reps on each leg.
Straight-Leg Raises to the Front
For this exercise, lie on your back with your painful leg flat on the floor and your good knee bent with your foot on the floor. Place your attention on the thigh muscle of your affected leg. Tighten the muscle and lift your leg straight up until it’s about 30 cm off the floor.
Hold the leg in this position for 5 or 6 seconds and then lower it back to the floor. You can rest for up to 10 seconds before doing another rep.
Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Side-Lying Hip Abduction
For this stretch, lie on one side with your top leg stacked on top of your bottom one. You can bend the bottom leg to create a more stable platform if necessary.
Straighten your top leg and make sure the kneecap is facing forward and the toes are relaxed and not pointed or flexed. Lift the leg sideways towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes.
Make sure the movement is controlled and you can feel the squeeze in the glute. Pause for a few seconds at the top and then return to the starting position slowly.
Repeat 15 to 20 reps for 2 to 3 sets total.
To do this exercise, stand with your back towards a wall. Place an exercise ball between the wall and your lower back. You may need to ask someone else to help position the ball correctly.
Lean backward slightly to hold the ball securely between your back and the wall. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and they should be slightly in front of your body—6 to 12 inches—as you lean back against the ball.
Tense your core muscles to stay stable and lower your body to the ground in a squat. As you move downwards, the ball will roll on your back. Make an effort not to let the ball fall out from between your back and the wall.
Make sure that your knees don’t collapse inwards. Try to keep your weight on your heels and as soon as you feel your knees collapsing inwards, rise up to the starting position again. Try to slowly improve your range of motion but don’t go further than your knees can handle.
Repeat 10 to 15 reps, for 2 to 3 sets in total.
For this exercise, lie on your back and straighten your affected knee, while keeping your unaffected knee bent with your foot on the floor.
Keeping the heel of your sore leg on the ground, bend your painful knee slowly and pull your heel along the ground towards your buttock until you feel a stretch in the knee.
Stop in this position and hold it for 5 or 6 seconds. Slowly return your knee to the original position.
Repeat this 8 to 12 times on the affected knee.