Improving and Increasing Synovial Fluid

Low levels contribute to joint pain and other symptoms

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Synovial fluid (joint fluid) is a thick liquid that cushions your joints and reduces friction from the ends of bones moving against each other. All of your joints contain it, but it decreases as you get older. That's partly why joints stiffen and don't move as well over time.

You might find out you have low fluid after synovial fluid analysis. That's is a group of medical tests for identifying causes of joint pain and inflammation such as:

This article delves into how lifestyle changes (diet, exercise) and medication can improve and increase your synovial fluid so you have less joint pain and inflammation now and as you get older, plus what synovial fluid analysis can reveal.

Midsection of woman with knee pain sitting on chair

Anupong Thongchan / EyeEm / Getty Images

Exercising to Improve Synovial Fluid

Joints that are highly movable are called synovial joints. When these joints are healthy, the bones slide against each other without friction or pain.

This is possible because the bones are cushioned by cartilage, a soft tissue called the synovium or synovial membrane, and synovial fluid (which is made by the synovial membrane).

The synovial joints include your:

  • Shoulders
  • Elbows
  • Wrists
  • Hips
  • Knees

Studies show that exercise helps synovial fluid and nutrients in the synovium move around better. Synovial fluid analysis reveals fewer markers of inflammation and joint problems after exercise, as well.

So while it doesn't actually increase the amount of synovial fluid you have, exercise appears to help it function and improve its quality.

Any physical activity is good for your body. Some exercises that are especially good for your joints are:

You should always talk to your healthcare provider before starting an exercise regimen. If you have a lot of joint pain or limited movement, you may benefit from working with a physical therapist.

Dietary Changes That Increase Synovial Fluid

Eating foods that are good for your joints can help your body produce more synovial fluid. This helps keep your joints healthy and might help lower your joint pain.

Some foods known to help with synovial fluid production are:

  • Dark, leafy vegetables
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, mackerel, and flaxseeds)
  • Curcumin (a compound found in the spice turmeric)
  • High antioxidant foods (onions, garlic, green tea, and berries)
  • Nuts and seeds

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before making dietary changes.

Nutritional Supplements That Increase Synovial Fluid 

Some nutritional supplements have been shown to increase synovial fluid. They won't cure joint conditions, but they might help alleviate your pain.

Supplements that are good for your joints include:

Even natural treatments can cause unwanted side effects and drug interactions, and they may not be safe for everyone. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking nutritional supplements. Your pharmacist is also an excellent resource for checking on possible interactions.

Medical Treatments That Increase Synovial Fluid

Your healthcare provider may recommend a type of injection to help protect your joints or alleviate joint pain. The specific treatments may vary depending on your diagnosis.

Viscosupplementation Injections

Viscosupplementation injections contain hyaluronic acid, which is essential for healthy synovial fluid. It's called viscosupplementation because hyaluronic acid gives synovial fluid its viscosity (thickness and stickiness).

Inflammation leads to lower amounts of hyaluronic acid in the synovial fluid. Studies suggest replacing it with injections right into the joint, where it's needed, can help alleviate joint pain.

Depending on the severity of your pain and how well the treatment works, you may get several injections over the course of a few months.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is another type of injection for easing joint pain. It's considered a regenerative medicine treatment because it helps your body repair damage.

Before you start the treatment, your healthcare provider will have some blood drawn and processed into a fluid called plasma, which is high in platelets. Platelets are blood cells that are essential for healing.

Your provider then injects the fluid into your joint. They may use an ultrasound to make sure the shot gets the fluid in just the right place.

More studies need to be done to make sure this treatment works as suspected. Some early studies have suggested PRP treatment is at least as helpful for osteoarthritis as hyaluronic acid injections.

Synovial Fluid Analysis

You won't know for sure whether you have low synovial fluid unless your healthcare provider orders synovial fluid analysis.

Those tests can tell your healthcare provider what's going on inside your joint(s). You're a candidate for synovial fluid analysis if your joint is:

  • Painful
  • Inflamed
  • Red or discolored
  • Warm to the touch

Typically, the provider will give you a local anesthetic to kill pain at the site, then use a needle to draw out synovial fluid. The tests look at:

  • The fluid's physical qualities (color, thickness, viscosity), which can reveal inflammation
  • Its chemical makeup, to look for changes that may be related to a disease process
  • Microscopic contents that are undesirable, such as crystals (which indicate gout) and bacteria (which indicate infection)

This tells your healthcare provider whether you need to increase or improve your synovial fluid and may give them an idea how you can do so (such as changing your diet to control gout).

Possible diagnoses they may make based on synovial fluid analysis include:

  • A type of arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, etc.)
  • A bleeding disorder, if there's blood in the synovial fluid
  • A bacterial infection inside the joint

You may need to fast for several hours before this test. Be sure to follow any directions you're given to prepare for synovial fluid analysis.

Summary

Synovial fluid helps your joints move easily. As you age, you'll have synovial fluid. Your joints will not be able to move as well and the parts may rub together.

When this happens, the joints can get damaged and cause you pain. You might also have less joint fluid if you have a condition like arthritis.

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, nutritional supplements, and joint injections may all help improve or increase synovial fluid and decrease joint pain and inflammation.

A Word From Verywell

Joint pain is a normal consequence of some conditions as well as a part of getting older. But that doesn't mean you have to live with it.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your joint pain and what seems to make it better or worse. That way, they can get you diagnosed and treated before damage becomes severe. In the long run, that can save you from considerable pain and disability.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Arthritis Foundation. How exercise helps your joints.

  2. Zhang SL, Liu HQ, Xu XZ, Zhi J, Geng JJ, Chen J. Effects of exercise therapy on knee joint function and synovial fluid cytokine levels in patients with knee osteoarthritisMol Med Rep. 2013;7(1):183-186. doi:10.3892/mmr.2012.1168

  3. Castrogiovanni P, Trovato FM, Loreto C, et al. Nutraceutical supplements in the management and prevention of osteoarthritis. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(12):2042. doi:10.3390/ijms17122042

  4. Tamer TM. Hyaluronan and synovial joint: function, distribution and healingInterdiscip Toxicol. 2013;6(3):111-125. doi:10.2478/intox-2013-0019

  5. Belk JW, Kraeutler MJ, Houck DA, et al. Platelet-rich plasma versus hyaluronic acid for knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Sports Med. 2021;49(1):249-260. doi:10.1177/0363546520909397

Additional Reading

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.