Knee tendonitis and bursitis

Older man with knee pain

​​​​​​Both tendonitis and bursitis are inflammation of the joints. They can be caused by overuse, strain and repeated stress to the knee joint through frequent, repetitive motion. In some cases, infection or sudden injury can also prompt bursitis and tendonitis.

Tendonitis is a general term to describe inflammation of a tendon—strong cords of tissue that connect your muscles to the bones of the knee. In the knee, the most common form of tendonitis is patellar tendonitis, or Jumper’s Knee. It occurs when the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shin bone becomes inflamed and swollen. If left untreated, tendonitis can lead to tendon tears and continued inflammation.

Bursitis affects your bursae—small, fluid-filled sacs that serve as cushions and reduce friction for your bones and other body parts like muscles, tendons or skin. Bursitis is typically temporary but may involve repeated incidents with pain and swelling. If left untreated, bursitis may cause deterioration of your muscles and limited movement in the affected joint, like your knee.

Knee tendonitis and bursitis symptoms

The most common symptoms of knee bursitis and tendonitis are:

  • A grating feeling when moving the joint 

  • Limited motion

  • Pain

  • Redness and inflammation

  • Swelling and tenderness

Knee tendonitis and bursitis diagnosis

The experienced joint specialists at The Christ Hospital Health Network begin diagnosis with a comprehensive medical history and physical exam. They carefully listen as you detail the symptoms you are having and develop an individualized plan of action to diagnose and treat your specific issue.

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Aspiration—a procedure that uses a needle and syringe to remove fluid from the space around a joint.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)— uses a magnet, radio frequencies and computer to produce detailed pictures of organs and structures inside your body.

  • Ultrasonography—an imaging test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a picture of the inside of the knee. 

  • X-ray—invisible electromagnetic energy beams that make images of your bones and their surrounding soft tissues.

Knee tendonitis and bursitis treatment

At The Christ Hospital, we focus on non-invasive treatments that reduce pain and let you get back to your life as quickly as possible. The first step is discontinuing, at least temporarily, the movement or activity that is causing the problem.

Often, the RICE method can provide relief:

  • Rest the joint

  • Ice the affected area

  • Compress the area with an elastic bandage

  • Elevate the joint

If additional treatment is needed, it may include:

  • Antibiotics—your physician may prescribe an antibiotic for bursitis that is caused by an infection. 

  • Cortisone injections—an anti-inflammatory steroid is injected into the knee joint to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Anti-inflammatory medication—medications that reduce inflammation, which often helps to relieve pain.

  • Surgery—in some cases, surgery may be needed to treat severe injuries that cause tendonitis or to drain an inflamed bursa. 

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we have the experience and skill it takes to treat tendonitis and bursitis of the knee so you can get back to your favorite activities.

Find a knee specialist near you.