Is My Knee Pain Due to Bursitis or Arthritis?

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knee bursitis

While knee pain is largely associated with arthritis, it can have several causes. One condition that can cause very similar symptoms to arthritis in the joints, is bursitis.

So, how do knee bursitis and arthritis differ and what treatments are available to help ease the symptoms? Learn everything you need to know below.

What is knee bursitis?

Bursitis occurs when the fluid-filled sack (bursa) within the joint becomes inflamed. It causes painful swelling that can greatly impact mobility. The condition will largely clear up within a few weeks, but it can reoccur repeatedly in the future.

Those suffering with the condition will experience numerous symptoms including:

  • A red, swollen knee
  • An aching or stiff feeling within the joint
  • It will hurt to move, leading to mobility issues

Bursitis is typically caused by repetitive movement of the joint. However, it can also occur due to injury or trauma.

What is arthritis?

Knee arthritis is a chronic condition that can present in several forms. The two most common types of the condition are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Osteoarthritis develops due to wear and tear of the joint. It is associated with the cartilage deteriorating typically over a period of many years. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. This occurs when the immune system mistakenly begins attacking the body’s own joints.

It is estimated that over 10 million people in the UK have arthritis of some kind. It is more prevalent in older age, particularly osteoarthritis. It presents much the same symptoms as Bursitis such as:

  • Pain, stiffness, or tenderness of the joint
  • Restricted movement within the joint
  • Inflammation in and around the knee
  • Red, warm skin over the affected area

As both conditions cause the same kind of symptoms, how can you tell the difference between them?

How to tell the difference between bursitis and arthritis

While bursitis and knee arthritis may cause similar symptoms, bursitis is typically a temporary issue that will clear up within a few weeks. Arthritis on the other hand is a long-term condition that worsens as time goes on. So, if your knee pain and stiffness isn’t subsiding, it could be a sign of arthritis.

Bursitis can also potentially be prevented. Arthritis on the other hand is quite difficult to prevent. In many cases it is thought to be genetic, whereas bursitis largely occurs due to overuse of the joint or injury.

As knee bursitis isn’t a long-term issue, it doesn’t necessarily require any treatment. However, if you are diagnosed with arthritis you will need to undergo treatment to prevent it from worsening. There currently isn’t a cure for the condition, but there are effective treatments to help manage it. In severe cases, a robotic knee replacement may be required to remove the arthritic joint.

As you can see, there are clear differences between bursitis and arthritis. If you are suffering with any form of knee pain and stiffness, seeking a diagnosis quickly will ensure you get the treatment you need.