What is housemaid’s knee?

Housemaid’s knee is also called as pre-patella bursitis or knee bursitis. This condition involves the swelling of the bursa or small-sized sac of fluid at the front part of the knee.

Important: the details posted on this page on housemaid’s knee is for learning purposes only. If you have severe knee pain consult a physician. If you want to learn to manage and recognize joint, muscle and bone injuries register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.


The symptoms of housemaid’s knee include tenderness and pain in the front part of the kneecap and the area right below it. The kneecap can be swollen and warm to the touch. If the individual kneels, it will cause pain. In most cases, there is a lump or abscess that is visible over the kneecap. In case the injury becomes chronic, there might be a tender lump that is floating under the skin on the kneecap.

Causes of housemaid’s knee

Housemaid's knee

The symptoms of housemaid’s knee include tenderness and pain in the front part of the kneecap and the area right below it.

An acute case of housemaid’s knee can be instigated by a direct blow or fall on the knee. This will lead to the rupture of the blood vessels which eventually bleeds into the bursa, resulting to swelling and triggering an inflammatory reaction in the walls of the bursa. Consequently, the walls of the bursa will start to thicken which causes tenderness that can remain even after the swelling has reduced.

An acute case can also be caused by an infection due to a surface injury such as skin wound over the kneecap. In such circumstances, the bacteria can spread into the fluid inside the pre-patellar bursa which will cause an infection.

As for a chronic housemaid’s knee, it is considered as a long-term issue that can recur over a period of time. Constant damage to the knee due to kneeling or work that involves a lot of pressure on the kneecap will lead to the thickening of the walls of the bursa, resulting to irritation.

Treatment for housemaid’s knee

An acute housemaid’s knee must be treated as soon as possible with rest and application of an ice pack. The ice pack must be applied for 10 minutes at every hour for the initial 24-48 hours, particularly if it is painful. The individual must avoid kneeling down or applying any pressure on the knee.  The doctor will prescribe NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. Just make sure that a doctor is consulted before using any medication.

In case an acute case does not respond to treatment or has been present for days or weeks, it is recommended to use knee padding or cushioned knee supports to provide protection to the knee.

If the inflammation lasts, it is best to consult a doctor in order to remove some of the fluid inside the bursa. This usually involves the extraction of the fluid using a needle and syringe. In cases where the bursa has been infected, antibiotics are usually prescribed. In serious cases, the bursa might be completely removed using surgery.