How to Get Rid of Fluid on the Knee

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effusion on the knee, also known as the knee overflowing or water on the knee, is a painful condition caused by fluid buildup around and inside the knee joint.

Whenever there is damage to the knee, such as an injury or pre-existing medical condition, it can lead to an excess of fluid. The methods you use to reduce swelling will depend on the cause and may require a healthcare provider’s diagnosis.

This article will explore the common causes and treatment of knee effusion and when to seek medical attention.

Verywell / Jessica Olah


Knee joint is one synovial translation shared. This means the joint is lined with a type of fluid-producing tissue. This helps provide nutrition to the cartilage lining the joints. It lubricates it, reduces friction and aids joint rotation.

Cartilage is the soft tissue at the ends of bones that allows them to glide over each other.

When there is an excess of fluid around a joint, it can cause swelling, pain, and stiffness.

Common causes of knee effusion are:

  • Hurt
  • Underlying medical conditions that cause arthritis, such as arthritis
  • Cysts or fluid-filled sacs under the skin
  • Infection


If you’re active and healthy, the most common causes of knee swelling are injuries such as:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a common type of sprain located in the center of the knee. The ACL helps connect your femur and shinbone and stabilize your knee.
  • Cupping tears, is a tear of the C-shaped cartilage in your knee joint between the thighbone and shin bone. If cartilage is damaged, it doesn’t have the same cushioning and can cause inflammation.
  • Contagiona tissue injury such as a bruise on the knee

Repetitive movements from sports like running or squatting and lifting often cause knee pain and can sometimes contribute to swelling.

Basic conditions

Underlying illnesses can lead to an abnormal inflammatory response that causes excess fluid to build up as your body tries to protect your joints.

These conditions include:

  • Osteoarthritisa common type of arthritis that occurs when cartilage breaks down
  • Goutalso known as gouty arthritis, where a buildup of uric acid causes sudden, severe pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritisan autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own tissues, including joints


Sometimes, osteoarthritis or tears can cause a cyst, called a Baker’s cyst, which can cause a knee effusion.

Baker’s cysts are fluid-filled lumps that form behind the knee when the joint is damaged by inflammation or injury. Fluid flows toward the back of the knee and forms a cyst, and cysts can contribute to further swelling.


Infection can also cause discharge and pain. They can occur as a result of complications from surgery or infection and can be caused by dangerous bacteria.

Joint infections can be extremely painful and come on quickly. They require prompt medical attention.

When should you see a health care provider about a knee effusion?

If your knee is tender, hot, red, and if you have a fever, chills, or feel sick, seek medical attention immediately.


To diagnose a knee effusion, your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and check for the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Fever
  • Loss of sensation
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight in the affected leg
  • Warm and red

To determine the underlying cause of fluid on the knee, your healthcare provider may order a procedure called synovial aspiration, in which a sample of fluid is removed with a needle.

The fluid is then analyzed for white blood cells that indicate inflammation, bacteria that reveal an infection, or uric acid crystals that signal gout.

Imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs may also be ordered to make the diagnosis, especially if a tear or other injury is expected.


Injury to any part of the knee can lead to excess fluid. Your doctor will check your symptoms and may take a fluid sample to diagnose the cause of the swelling.

The treatment

Treatment to get rid of knee fluid will depend on the cause.

For mild cases, you can try the following home treatments:

  • RICE — short for rest, ice, compression, and elevation — for mild pain relief immediately after injury
  • Compression by wrapping the knee lightly with an elastic bandage
  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Physiotherapy exercises
  • Wear a knee brace

If medical treatment is needed, your healthcare provider may perform a joint aspiration to drain fluid, providing temporary pain relief.

Injecting corticosteroids into the joint can help reduce pain and inflammation caused by injury or damage to the joint.

If the knee effusion is caused by an infection, antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the bacteria. Usually, oral or oral antibiotics for 14 days are enough. But if the infection is caused by resistant bacteria, intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be needed through a vein for two or four weeks.

For underlying conditions such as arthritis, medications that suppress the immune system’s overactive response may be used.

If home treatments don’t work or any prescribed medication doesn’t improve symptoms, tell your healthcare provider right away.

For severe cases of knee effusion, you may require joint surgery called arthroplasty, which may include joint replacement. These methods are only used as a last resort if all other medical interventions have failed.


A effusion in the knee can be caused by an injury, infection, or conditions such as arthritis.

A health care provider can recommend treatments, such as medications and physical therapy, based on the cause of the fluid buildup.

A very good word

An effusion in the knee can be painful and affect your quality of life. Knowing the causes, symptoms, and methods of reducing swelling at home or with the help of a healthcare provider can greatly improve your symptoms.

If you have experienced an injury or suspect an infection, make sure you notify your healthcare provider right away.

frequently asked Questions

  • Is heat or ice better for knee pain?

    Choose between heat or ice depending on the type of injury. Apply ice if you’re trying to reduce inflammation, which is essential for recent injuries like a sprain or a meniscus tear.

    Heat therapy if you want pain relief and improved flexibility, this is aimed at treating arthritis and chronic muscle or joint pain.

  • What exercise reduces the amount of water on the knee?

    The type of exercise you can do to reduce water on your knees depends on the cause of the fluid buildup. Consider seeing your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and a physical therapist who can recommend specific exercises for you. Stretching exercises that improve range of motion and increase strength may be recommended.

  • Can a knee effusion get worse?

    Yes, knee fluid can get worse if you don’t address the problem. Bacterial infections can spread and lead to permanent damage. Meniscus tears can lead to long-term pain, weakness, and loss of mobility if left untreated. This is why it is important to get an immediate diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

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