A bursa is a small fluid filled sac. There are lots of them in the body – often at joints, or places where tendons slide over bony areas. Bursitis occurs when one or more of these sacs become inflamed, and can affect the knee, the elbow, the hip or the shoulder.
Bursitis around the knee joint is sometimes known as “housemaid’s knee”, and frequently affects grapplers. It’s usually extremely painful when any pressure is put on the affected bursa – patients often describe it as being like “kneeling on a drawing pin”.
One of the most common causes of bursitis at the knee is impact or sustained pressure – for example, dropping down hard on your knee when wrestling, or kneeling down a lot when grappling.
The best way to prevent the problem from occurring is to avoid frequent impact or pressure on the area, and by wearing elbow or knee pads where appropriate.
Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs prescribed by a doctor) can help, especially if the problem is in the early stages. It’s important to remove the source of irritation by avoiding activities which involve pressure on the painful area. Sometimes it is possible to protect the affected area during training using either a standard knee (or elbow) pad, or some combination of tape and foam padding.
For more severe or chronic cases, a doctor will sometimes recommend a cortisone injection or may drain the bursa. While these interventions can sometimes be very helpful, they still need to be combined with rest and shouldn’t be seen as a “quick fix” solution to the problem. As a last resort, in a few cases, surgery may be needed to remove the bursa.