Bursitis is an injury or inflammation of the bursa, which can form above the knee joint otherwise known as the prepatella bursa. A bursa is a tiny, fluid-filled sac that functions as a gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the body.
Sometimes after an initial injury that sets off the process of inflammation, the problem can become self-exacerbating, and the tendons and bursa can become inflamed. This inflammation causes a thickening of these structures, which then takes up more space, causing even further pinching of the tendons and bursa above the kneecap.
A thorough physical exam is important to diagnose bursitis, and making an accurate diagnosis is necessary for proper treatment. X-rays are typically performed to assess the bony anatomy of the knee and can sometimes detect calcifications in the bursa when bursitis has been chronic or recurrent. An MRI may be considered to define bursitis and to ensure there is no soft tissue injury.
In many cases, the initial treatment for prepatellar bursitis is non-surgical and may take several weeks or months for gradual improvement and return to full function. Working with an experienced physical therapist is highly recommended. They will attempt to restore normal motion to your knee by providing you with specific stretching exercises to improve your range of motion, relieve pain, and strengthen your muscles.