Housemaid’s knee – a painful problem!

Housemaid’s knee, also known as prepatellar bursitis, causes swelling and pain at the front of the knee.

Why is it called Housemaid’s knee, and what can you do about it?

It refers to inflammation of  a small fluid filled sac, called a bursa, which sits in front of the kneecap. Its onset can be either acute (sudden onset) or a chronic ( long term) injury.

It is most commonly seen in people who spend extended periods of time kneeling. This kneeling was typical of housemaid’s; hence we use the term “housemaid’s knee.”   However other professions are also at risk,  such as:-

  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers

It can also affect people who are on their feet all day long, such as:-

  • Waiters
  • Nurses
  • Gardeners
  • Rugby players
  • Warehouse operatives
  • Sports involving jumping

Under normal conditions the bursa’s function is to reduce the friction between the patella (kneecap) tendon and the overlying skin of the bursa.

What causes housemaid’s knee?

It is hard to pinpoint what causes this condition, however certain factors may make you more vulnerable:

  • Age – It is more common in older adults, aged 40+, than children, probably just due to general wear and tear and the inability to recover as quickly. As we age, our bones and muscles weaken over time and makes us more likely to develop a condition such as this.
  • Obesity – This is because people who are very overweight usually have poor muscle tone, which makes them more susceptible to injury
  • Sudden injury – A one off injury to the knee for example a fall or a direct blow to the knee
  • Recurrent injury – This could be a repetitive action, usually after spending extended periods of time standing or kneeling on a frequent basis, in turn putting pressure on the kneecap
  • Infection – The fluid in the bursa can become infected and cause inflammation. Commonly following a cut or scratch, this type of injury allows bacteria to spread infection into the bursa and is particularly common in children
  • Gout – If you suffer from gout you have an increased risk of developing a bursitis. Gout is caused by a build-up or uric acid crystals
  • Other inflammatory diseases – Such as rheumatoid arthritis, it is a form of arthritis that causes pain and swelling of the joints

Symptoms of housemaid’s knee

Most people with this condition report much the same symptoms, which include:-

  • Kneecap may be swollen, red and warm to the touch
  • Pain and tenderness on the kneecap and just below it, especially whilst moving or bending it
  • Fever if infection is present
  • Difficulty kneeling and walking
  • Range of motion to the knee limited
  • A fluid filled lump may be visible over the knee
  • In the chronic form of this condition, there maybe a tender lump floating underneath the skin of the kneecap
  • Stiffness and general tightness are common

This condition can be extremely painful for people who have to use that area every day in their line of work,  this can make the condition much worse if not treated immediately and properly.

Chiropractic treatment of housemaid’s knee

Make an appointment with your Chiropractor. They will be able to rule out other causes of knee pain and swelling, such as runner’s knee, cartilage damage or other knee conditions. They may ask you questions about your occupation or if you have had any recent knee injury. They may also ask whether you have any history of other joint problems.

Each patient will undergo a thorough physical and biomechanical examination in order to make an accurate diagnose and to help create a personalised treatment plan. Most patients experiencing knee pain benefit from some or all of the following treatments:-

  • Normalize joint function – This is usually accomplished by using Chiropractic manipulation and mobilisation techniques in the areas with limited movement, including any affected surrounding joints
  • Reduce joint inflammation – Ice may be recommended to help reduce inflammation, muscle spasm and pain
  • Massage and ultrasound – To help promote soft tissue healing
  • Rehabilitation – When the time is right exercises will be given to help improve strength and flexibility, balance and endurance, to promote normal function and to prevent injuries.

Chiropractors can help with many different forms of knee pain, so if you suffer from knee pain or know someone who does, call to speak to a member of staff and find out how we at Heale’s Clinics can help you to manage your pain.

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or .