Fluid on knee after fall: why - and what to do?

On the downward leg of the Snowdon race this July, I tripped and slid a few yards along a stony section of path. I finished the run and got home with, I thought, no more than a few cuts and bruises.

However, over the next few days my right knee swelled up and became very sore to touch. I rested it for about a week, doing no more exercise than walking the dog for an hour or so. The soreness has now largely gone (though if I catch the knee in the wrong place the pain is excruciating), but the swelling remains. I think ‘fluid on the knee’ is what most people would call it.

When the swelling didn’t subside, I decided to see the local GP. She organised an x-ray and I got the results today; there’s nothing obviously wrong. The GP says she has no real idea of what the problem is, though mentioned something about a bit of cartilage possibly floating around. So she’s referred me to the orthopaedic chaps at the local hospital. I gather it will be some weeks before they respond.

Since the fall, I’ve carried on running, doing 25 miles or so per week. I did the Chester Marathon last Sunday and am signed up for Snowdonia at the end of this month. Running on the flat or on gentle slopes produces the occasional twinge, but generally gives me no grief. Going up steepish hills tends to hurt.

At home, I’m sometimes pain free, but mostly there’s a low-level pain, sometimes a throbbing, below the kneecap.

Can anyone suggest: i) what might be causing the problem with my knee and ii) what’s best to do about it?

Thanks in anticipation,



  • JoolskaJoolska ✭✭✭
    I had fluid on the knee after a fall earlier this year (I did actually bash the knee as I fell and pretty much twisted it, too).  I think ultimately the view was that I'd tweaked a ligament and so things around the knee joint were generally unhappy.  IIRC I rested it for a week and had 3 or 4 physio sessions which seemed to help disperse the fluid.  It was a good month before I was able to return to daily running; I was restricted to short-ish runs every other day.
  • Joolska, has the fluid gone forever?
  • JoolskaJoolska ✭✭✭
    Well, my knee's been the right size for 5 months now...
  • What you are describing is an effusion- a sign usually of a significant problem. If it was rock hard, and the size of a football within a few hours, it suggests a ligament tear or fractue, but if less severe than that, a meninscus is probably more likely.

    Either way an xray is a waste of time- unless your GP thought it was a fracture- you really need either- an good physio, or a good orthopod, and/ or an MRI if you want a diagnosis.

    If it is settling, you might get away with just a bit of physio, if not, you may be heading for an arthroscopy. I would get a physio to look first, while you're waiting for the ortho apointment to come through.

  • Thanks for that tricialitt.  Possibly meniscus trouble then.

    Yes, the GP thought I might have chipped the bone - hence the x-ray.

    Looks like I'd best find a physio. Don't like the sound of an arthroscopy.

  • Hi there, I've just had arthroscopy (6 weeks ago) to repair torn medial meniscus on the left knee. Routine op, general anaesthetic in and out in a day, felt a bit unwell the following day with knee swollen as well, this reduced over a week and I could drive 7 days after. I'm now ready to run again.

    I'm no doctor but I would recommend pushing for an MRI to be certain, then physio should cure if no signs of a problem. I was given he same advice, go to a physio then see how it is, this wasted about 6months of time before I could get the MRI so I wish I'd pushed for it earlier.
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