Knee tendon bursitis can develop at the inner (medial) knee. Knee tendon bursitis results from trauma, overuse, and degenerative joint disease. The painful inflammatory condition develops most frequently in athletes, middle-aged women with obesity, and older adults with arthritis. Knee tendon bursitis rarely requires surgery. Conservative measures, including rest, physical therapy, and medications provide symptom relief for most people.
Tendons are fibrous tissues that attach muscles to bone. The pes anserinus tendons secure the muscles that flex and rotate the knee. Pes anserinus means "goosefoot," which describes the appearance of the conjoined tendons that attach to the inner side of the leg bone (tibia bone). Beneath the pes anserinus tendons is a bursa (pes anserine). The bursa is a small cushion-like sac that creates fluid to allow the pes anserinus tendons to glide over the bone.
Knee tendon bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa. Athletic overuse, trauma, chronic arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and obesity, especially in middle-aged women, are frequent causes of knee tendon bursitis.
The incidence of knee tendon bursitis is highest among:
• Middle-aged women with obesity
• Young athletes who participate in sports that require abrupt side-to-side motions or cutting. Such sports include basketball, tennis, and soccer.
• Older adults with arthritis
• People with flat feet
• People with bowlegged knee deformity
Knee tendon bursitis causes swelling, tenderness, and pain with certain movements, such as when climbing stairs or getting up from a chair.
A doctor diagnoses knee tendon bursitis by examining the knee and reviewing your medical history. Your doctor may order medical imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI scans to confirm the diagnosis.
Knee tendon bursitis is treated first with rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) to relieve pain. Physical therapy modalities, such as icing, therapeutic ultrasound, and exercise can help relieve pain and restore functional movement. Muscle wasting is a concern from disuse of the knee, especially in older adults and people with obesity. People with obesity should discuss healthy weight loss and weight management plans with their physician. If symptoms persist, injections of local anesthetics, corticosteroids, or both medications help to provide some immediate relief.
Surgery is rarely necessary for knee tendon bursitis. Surgery may be used to treat people, such as athletes, with disability. Surgery involves removing the bursa and any bone growths.