Water on the Knee

By Justin Bland, ATC

Water on the Knee

What is water on the knee? Have you ever woken up with a swollen body part? It is not uncommon for areas of swelling to appear without you noticing. Well, that water on your body part is not water at all. So what exactly is that stuff. That stuff is swelling or inflammation and is usually the result of some trauma (small or large) to an area on the body. This swelling can result from the body reacting to exercise, falling, twisting an ankle, or even an infection.

image of water on knee

Image of an Injured Knee.

So What’s in the Water on the Knee?

The (Water) is actually a variety of dead tissue cells and blood often due to an injury to the local area. When any soft tissue (tendons, muscles, ligaments) or bone is injured, it alters the local cellular metabolism and stimulates the body to produce an inflammatory response. This inflammation can generally be recognized as redness, swelling, tenderness to touch, and warmth.

What is Inflammation on Knee?

After any injury or trauma, the human body signals what is known as an inflammatory response to heal the injured area. The body sequences a complex physiologic cascade of events to promote healing. This healing involves white blood cells (WBC), red blood cells (RBC), and a large number and variety of chemical mediators to complete this healing task. This inflammatory response begins immediately following an injury and can last up to a week for major trauma. The cellular reaction is a way for the body to protect itself, localize the damaged tissues, and set the stage for repair to begin.

How to get rid of Inflammation?

The common and current basic guideline to follow to help the inflammatory process consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R-I-C-E). The practice of
R-I-C-E can help promote the inflammatory process to aid in quicker healing. So after any injury, it may be best to try and stay off or limit the use of that body part. He ice can help decrease the amount of swelling and help with pain relief. The compression aspect can be elastic wrap or sleeve, which applies pressure to the injury area, thereby helping the body re-absorb the swelling. Elevating the injured body part above the heart will also help promote the decrease in the swelling. Another effective pro-inflammatory method is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Be sure to ask your physician for appropriate medications for you specifically.

Should I use Heat or Ice?

In the event of new inflammation to any area of the body, ice may be the safest method. Ice can be effective in decreasing inflammation by cooling the injured tissue and slowing local circulation. This may help prevent further swelling initially after an injury. Introducing heat to an inflammation area will further increase circulation and swelling and may make the injury more painful.

It is certainly important to elevate the extremity the correct way.  Here is how to properly elevate your knee and ankle above your heart.

Elevation above your heart

Elevation of the Knee

JOI Fracture and Injury Care Services


Therapeutic Modalities for Allied Health Professionals. William E. Prentice. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. 1998

By: Justin Bland, M.Ed., ATC

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