One sure-fire sign of a problematic knee is swelling. It is the body’s response to damage around the knee, a symptom of an underlying condition, a disease, or overuse injury.
Smooth tissue called cartilage and synovium and a lubricant called synovial fluid cushion the joints, so bones do not rub together. But increasing age, injury, or carrying too much weight can wear and tear your cartilage.
It is also known as knee effusions or knee swelling. When the knee is accumulated with fluid, it swells. If the swelling persists, worsens, or becomes severely painful, it’s wise to opt for quick home remedies.
Knee fluid accumulation can be caused by conditions like tumors, bursitis, gout, cysts, osteoarthritis(1), rheumatoid arthritis, and infections.
How to get rid of Fluid on the Knee
Knee fluid is a common condition that can be controlled by simple home remedies, drugs, and simple tricks. Here are a few ways to eliminate knee fluid:
1. Rest and Elevate
An obvious, and probably the most natural step is to rest the knee. If you are a sportsperson, avoid sports for the next 24 hours or more to give your knee the needful rest and a chance to heal.
While doing this, it is essential to elevate the affected knee. Elevating the affected leg ensures that there is a decrease in blood flow, which reduces inflammation.
Lie or sit with your knee higher than your heart. Make sure you are very comfortable as you will need to rest the leg as much as possible completely.
You can use pillows to support yourself. Resting and elevating are crucial steps of the familiar Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate (RICE) method.
Based on your comfort level, you can decide how often you want to repeat the rest and elevate the method.
2. Apply Cold and Compression
Another RICE step that can help reduce fluid in your knee is applying cold compression. With this method, you can use ice cubes, a cold pack stored in the freezer, or a cold washcloth.
When using Ice, it’s not advisable to put it directly on the skin. Instead, put them in a towel or wrap them in a washcloth before placing them on your knee.
Depending on the method you use, you should apply the cold compression for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 4 hours. If you are wrapping your knee with a cold elastic bandage, be sure to loosen it to allow blood flow to the knee and the lower leg. If you notice numbness, warmth, or a tingling feeling, remove the bandage immediately.
Apply the cold compression for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 4 hours. Don’t do it after three days of no improvement.
[ Read: Ice or Heat for Knee Pain ]
3. Try Knee Exercises
While fluid in the knee may take some time to restore back to normalcy completely, knee exercises can help you get on your feet faster. You can do isometric exercises to reduce pain (if there is) and strengthen the muscles. When your joint muscles are strong, they help relieve joint pressure and drain fluid in the knee.
It is often a great idea to start with simple exercises like swimming and water aerobics. You can also do weight lifting and flexibility training.
You can do the exercises as frequently as you wish; however, just don’t strain yourself.
[ Read: Stretches for Knee Pain ]
4. Try Knee Massages
If you are not keen on massages, this will be the ideal moment to consider them. Massaging the knee helps drain the fluid from the joint. With this type of massage, doing it yourself gives better results. You could also consider visiting or having a professional visit and do the massage for you.
If it is self-massage, you can use any natural oil you have like olive, coconut, or castor oil. It will help your hands glide smoothly over the knee, thus easing the pain. The topical use of these oils also ensures there is no inflammation(2).
For self-massage, you can do it every morning and evening. For professional massages, your masseuse will recommend how many times based on your swelling.
[ Read: Physical Therapy for Knee Pain ]
When to See a Doctor
A swollen knee is a common occurrence. If mild, it can go away on its own after some good rest. However, if it persists for more than three days or gets severe, it could be a serious underlying condition. Medical attention, in this case, will be necessary. Also, see a doctor if your knee prevents you from doing things like bending, walking, or sitting.
Using heat worsens the condition? Therapeutic heat is not recommended in reducing inflammation or swelling.
If you have knee fluid, don’t panic or feel overwhelmed. This is a common condition that can either go on its own or eliminated using the RICE formula or in consultation with a doctor.
Surgeries aren’t necessary unless the condition is accompanied by other symptoms that indicate other ailments. If the RICE formula does not work, over the counter medications should help. However, a doctor’s opinion is always recommended.
1. How do you know if you have fluid in your knee?
You will know that you have fluid in your knee because there are several knee swelling symptoms. They include: redness or warmth around the knee joint, the skin around the knee feels puffy, the knee feels stiff and problematic to bending and straightening, and lastly, there may be a pain.
2. Is it dangerous to have fluid on the knee?
Having fluid in the knee is a common occurrence and doesn’t call for surgery. If home remedies do not work or the swelling gets worse, it is vital to seek medical attention.
3. Will an X-ray show fluid on the knee?
Yes. X-rays are meant to rule out arthritis and determine whether there are any dislocated or broken bones.