Everything You Need to Know About Water on the Knee

What is it and how is it treated?

Your knee typically has an ounce of liquid inside of it. However, when you have an injury, arthritis, or another problem that irritates your knee, fluid accumulates to cushion and protect your joints. 

Clinically, this is known as knee effusion, but most people call it water on the knee.

What is water on the knee?

Water on the knee is a result of your body’s natural efforts to protect itself. When you injure your knee joint causing irritation and inflammation, your body produces extra joint fluid to cushion and lubricate your joints.

The extra fluid causes:

  • Knee swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Pain 
  • Tenderness
  • Redness 
  • Warmth 

You won’t be able to put pressure on your knee. Fluid on the knee can also limit your mobility and make it painful to go up and downstairs, kneel, or squat.

What causes water on the knee?

Several factors can cause fluid to accumulate in your knee joint. Some of the most common injuries and health conditions include:

Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout are all types of arthritis that can cause the level of irritation in your knee that cause excess fluid to accumulate around the knee joint.

Osteoarthritis is the degenerative form of the disease that develops as the cartilage of a joint wears away. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that inflames the synovial lining of your joints. 

Gout develops when uric acid crystals form in your joint and irritate the soft tissue that lines and protects your joints.

Ligament injuries

Ligament injuries like sprains and ACL tears can also trigger the condition. Ligament tears and sprains are common sports injuries that occur when you forcefully twist or bend a joint in an abnormal direction.

Bursitis

You have liquid-filled sacs in your joints that absorb shock and help lubricate your joints. Bursitis is a repetitive use injury that irritates and inflames the bursa, leading to a fluid-filled swollen knee.

Baker’s cyst

A Baker’s cyst develops when the popliteal bursa at the back of the knee swells with excess liquid. It causes knee swelling, stiffness and can lead to water on the knee.

How to get rid of fluid on the knee

You may be able to manage this condition at home. Applying the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) can reduce pain and swelling. Stay off your knee as much as you can. Over-the-counter pain relievers may also relieve your symptoms.

When should I talk to a doctor about water on the knee?

Make an appointment with the orthopedic knee experts at OrthoNeuro in Columbus, Ohio, if your knee pain, swelling, and redness become more severe. 

You may also need medical care if you have a fever above 100.4F, shaking, or chills.

How does an orthopedist treat fluid on the knee?

The team of orthopedic knee specialists begins with a thorough exam and testing to identify the underlying condition causing the liquid accumulation. 

They review your health information and symptoms and complete a physical exam. When necessary, your physician may order blood tests, other lab work, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Once your orthopedist understands your needs, they may recommend an aspiration treatment to extract fluid from the swollen knee joint. 

During this process, your doctor numbs the site and uses a hollow needle to drain fluid from the knee. They may also provide a knee brace to stabilize and support your leg.

Your doctor can also recommend treatment for the underlying issue causing your symptoms.

How can I prevent fluid on the knee?

One of the best ways to prevent this condition is to take care of your joints. Maintain a healthy weight, practice exercises to keep the surrounding muscles strong, flexible, and supportive. 

Consider low-impact activities such as cycling, swimming, or moderately challenging walking — avoid steep hills. Make sure you use the correct form with any exercises to protect your knees and other joints.

Call OrthoNeuro today or schedule a consultation online if you have any knee pain, swelling, or signs of fluid accumulation.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Specialist Today! 

  • If you have been experiencing chronic knee pain, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 
  • We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. 
  • Best of all, most patients can be seen within 24 hours of making an appointment.
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Meet Our Knee Specialists

Michael B. Cannone, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

B. Rodney Comisar, MD, FAAOS

Orthopedic Surgeon

Mark E. Gittins, DO, FAOAO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Jeremy R. Mathis, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Ryan M. Palmer, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

Keith A. LaDu, DO

Orthopedic Surgeon

J. Mark Hatheway, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon

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