Knee Effusion: Water on the Knee


Do You Have a Swelling Knee? It Could Be Knee Effusion

Have you heard the term “water on the knee?” It’s a common term for the medical condition known as knee effusion. When a swelling knee is caused by knee effusion, excess fluid has accumulated in or around the joint. Of course, there is any number of reasons for a swelling knee. These include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and ligament or meniscus injuries.

Knee pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek therapy at the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI), a leading regenerative medicine clinic based in the United States. So how can you tell if you have knee effusion or if your swelling knee is a symptom of a different type of knee condition? Can it be addressed without surgery?

Diagnosis is the first step in eliminating knee effusion.

Only a proper medical diagnosis can determine if your swelling knee is due to knee effusion. But the good news is that, yes, it can usually be healed without resorting to surgery. In this article, NSI looks at what causes knee effusion, how a diagnosis is made, the most effective way to address the condition, and ways to prevent it from happening again.

Knee Effusion Basics

Whether in the arms, hands, legs, or knees, our joints need a certain amount of fluid where bone meets bone. This fluid is what helps cushion joints and allows them to move smoothly and painlessly. But when injury or disease causes excess fluid build-up, the result is swelling that can cause pain and/or interfere with range of motion.

Causes of knee effusion include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Injury to knee ligaments
  • Obesity/excess weight
  • High risk/high activity sports

The pain and discomfort of knee effusion can vary according to its cause. For example:

  • When a swelling knee is the result of osteoarthritis, the pain will occur when weight is put on it. In this case, the pain generally subsides when the knee is given adequate rest.
  • If knee effusion is caused by an injury, there is usually (though not always) bruising around the front, sides, or on the rear of the knee. When weight is put on the affected knee, pain may be so intense as to be unbearable.

Knee effusion can cause one knee to look bigger than the other. Compared to the unaffected knee, puffiness may be seen around the bony parts of the joint and appear quite prominent in comparison with the healthy knee. Regardless of the cause or whether pain is involved, the swelling knee can make bending or straightening the knee difficult.

what is knee effusionWhy is Effusion the Body’s Response to Joint Injury or Disease?

When a joint is injured, the body’s defense mechanism is to surround the hurt joint with a protective fluid. It is how the body tries to prevent further damage. The body can react in the same way to a disease or degenerative condition that affects joints.

What kind of fluid causes a swelling knee depends on the type of disease, condition, or injury that has occurred. The good news is that the majority of knee effusion cases can be effectively treated.

Diagnosing Knee Effusion

The physician will begin by making a comparison between the affected knee with the healthy knee. The swelling knee will be carefully examined through specific maneuvers, and an appointment to examine the knee with imaging technology will likely be set up.

An imaging diagnosis for knee effusion can be done through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-ray. Once the reason for the swelling knee is diagnosed, a treatment plan is formulated. And, of course, a detailed medical history on the patient will also be taken in order to ensure the steps taken to eliminate the knee effusion will offer the best results.

Joint aspiration will likely come into play.

Additionally, joint aspiration – a procedure in which fluid is extracted from the swelling knee- will be performed. The fluid can be used to measure cell count, to culture for bacteria, and check for crystal deposits.

Blood tests may also be requested by the physician. These will help determine markers such as white blood cell count and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (helps detect inflammation that is associated with illnesses like infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases). The doctor may also want to test for levels of C-reactive protein or uric acid, which are markers for a systemic inflammatory state associated with cardiovascular conditions like coronary atherosclerosis, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and others.

Understanding the underlying cause of a patient’s knee effusion is a critical element in diagnosis and treatment. Generally speaking, the National Stem Cell Institute reports that the most frequent conditions that cause knee effusion are:

  • Traumatic injury to ligaments, bones, or cartilage
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Infection
  • Calcium crystal deposits in the joints
  • Tumor
  • General overuse

How Knee Effusion is Treated

Today, stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies for knee effusion are outpacing traditional treatments because of their safety, effectiveness and high potential in helping patients avoid invasive surgeries, joint replacement, and prolonged physical therapy.

Regenerative medicine therapies like those that employ stem cells and/or platelet-rich plasma are minimally invasive methods that use the patient’s own stem cells and/or platelet-rich plasma to stimulate the body’s own healing process. These techniques have already been widely used in sports medicine for a number of years, and were introduced to the general public in the U.S. not long ago.

Stem cell therapy in the U.S. is growing in popularity as an effective, non-surgical method to address knee effusion and other illnesses, injuries, and disorders.

Adipose stem cell therapy is non-surgical, and the procedure is done on an outpatient basis. The number of physicians in the U.S. who recommend regenerative medicine therapies are growing as the methods become more widely available. NSI reports that FDA guidelines-compliant regenerative medicine clinics can be found in at least all 48 contiguous states in the U.S.

Home treatment used in conjunction with regenerative medicine therapies serve to enhance and maintain therapy results. Home treatments can offer a great deal of relief. These include:

  • Gentle stretches and exercises for the knee done on a regular basis
  • Rest, elevate, and ice (the ice should be applied to the knee for approximately 15-20 minutes at a time)
  • Moderate, general exercise (you can increase the intensity of your exercise as the knee heals)

Before embarking on any exercise, be sure to consult with your doctor and/or physical therapist. With proper guidance from your medical or therapeutic professional, a series of fitness activities can be mapped out that will strengthen the area, support the weakened knee, and help prevent repeat episodes of knee effusion in the future.

The type of treatment for knee effusion depends on the cause.

The underlying cause of the knee effusion will impact how therapy is approached. But many patients with effusion will need to have their swelling knee aspirated. That means that the excess fluid related to knee effusion usually needs to be drained (aspirated) before therapy can be planned.

How to Prevent Knee Effusion

Avoiding sudden jolting movements and rough running surfaces can help prevent knee injuries. Obesity adds pressure to the vulnerable knee joint, so weight reduction may help.

Exercises considered better for the knees include small (not deep) knee bends and straightening motions done with most weight on the outside of the foot.

Sports that are easier on the knees include walking, swimming (flutter kicks, knees straight), skating, baseball, cross-country skiing, and, depending on the state of the knee, cycling (seat high, low gear, and avoiding hills).

Choose activities to suit your own knee strength and capacity, and remember that sports especially hard on the knees include football, sprinting, soccer, rugby, hockey, squash, volleyball, basketball, downhill skiing, tennis, and jogging or anything that pounds, jolts, or twists the knees.

How Various Conditions Cause Knee Effusion

  • Osteoarthritis (OA)

OA often accompanies aging. It is part of the wear-and-tear that occurs as our joints age and wear down. Cartilage cushions the bones where they meet, such as at the elbows, wrists, and knees. OA can also be caused by injury.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

RA is another form of arthritis that can cause knee effusion. Rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age. It is an inflammatory response that can result in pain, stiffness, and swollen joints. Generally speaking, RA develops in the hands, feet, and/or knees.

  • Gout

Gout is another form of arthritis. With gout, however, the pain usually happens suddenly. Gout causes severe joint pain, swollenness, warmth, and redness. Unlike OA or RA, gout normally only attacks one joint. However, it has been known to flare up in more than one joint. Gout is caused by the crystallization of uric acid. When these crystal deposits accumulate in the joints they cause inflammation and pain.

  • Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is associated with psoriasis, a skin condition in which skin cells build up to form scaly, itching, dry patches. Psoriatic arthritis will develop in about 30 percent of people diagnosed with psoriasis. Like other forms of arthritis, it causes inflamed, painful joints.

  • Infectious Arthritis

This type of arthritis is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that has invaded the tissues and fluid of joints. Joint infections occur when a previous infection in another area of the body has migrated to a joint. The knee is one of the most commonly affected joints but hips, shoulders, ankles, and wrists are regular targets of infectious arthritis as well.

  • Joint injuries

Joint injuries regularly cause knee effusion. The pain from joint injuries can be the result of injured or torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround the joint. Some of the most common joint injuries are due to bursitis, tendonitis, dislocations, strains, sprains, and fractures.

Where to Learn More

Knee effusion can be distressing and agonizing. But it can be treated effectively, often without the need for surgery or prolonged and painful physical therapy. While conventional methods such as steroid injections and other high-risk medications are still used by some doctors, many physicians today recommend stem cell and/or platelet rich plasma therapies as the first resort.

Regenerative medicine’s reputation for improved healing, minimally invasive procedures specific to adipose-derived stem cells, and speedy recovery times have overshadowed traditional medical methods for treating knee effusion as well as a growing list of illnesses, injuries, and conditions. These include:

As with any medical procedure practiced in the U.S., regenerative medicine must be performed by a trained, licensed physician. Regenerative medicine clinics, popularly called stem cell clinics, must be fully compliant with FDA guidelines.

With that in mind, the National Stem Cell Institute offers tips below to help people ensure that they are visiting a legal and legitimate stem cell medical facility when receiving stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures.

What to Look for in a Stem Cell Medical Clinic

When searching for a qualified stem cell therapy center it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equal. Stem cells, when used properly, are your body’s most powerful means for healing that can repair everything from ligaments, tendons, and cartilage to organs including your liver, pancreas and lungs and even neurological tissue like your brain, nerves and spinal cord.

Unfortunately, the majority of so-called “regenerative medicine clinics” in the world aren’t trained in the latest, most technologically advanced procedures and will, therefore, provide poor results if any.

The good news is the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) has established the most advanced stem cell and platelet rich plasma procedures on the planet which has drawn patients from all over the world as well as professional athletes and celebrities because they are recognized as the best in the world at stem cell therapy.


What makes NSI Stem Cell the top stem cell clinic in the world is demonstrated in 5 key areas:

1. Highly trained and experienced, board-certified doctors and team members who have performed stem cell procedures on thousands of patients with incredible results.

2. Cutting edge procedures utilizing all that regenerative medicine has to offer for many chronic degenerative conditions.

3. Leading scientific researchers who follow the advanced guidelines to maximize the healing potential of your stem cells and to maintain compliance and ethics

4. Use of only the most potent and viable resource of living, viable stem cells and harvested on the same day. No vial that you can purchase will contain living stem cells. If there is no harvest then there are no stem cells.

5. Post-operative guidance for supporting stem-cell growth including rehabilitation, diet and supplement protocols. NSI is a full-service healthcare center focused on patient outcomes. Stem cell therapy is only one tool used to help improve patients’ lives.

Patients have raved about their experience at NSI Stem Cell Clinics testifying that it was their unique cutting-edge procedures that helped them experience a breakthrough when nothing else worked.

If you want to learn more about NSI Stem Cell Clinics, you can set up a complimentary consultation today to see if you are a candidate. You can contact the National Stem Cell Institute at (877) 278-3623.

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* Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary. As each patient’s problem is different, each treatment must be tailored around your specific needs.