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What is Synovial Fluid?

By Adam Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Synovial fluid is a fluid-like material that is present in many of the joints of the body. It serves the purpose of lubricating and nourishing certain parts of the joint. The joints in which this type of fluid is present are known as synovial joints, and these include the elbow, knee, shoulder, and hip joints, among others.

Synovial fluid has a thick consistency, somewhat like an egg. It is not like most other fluids present in the body and elsewhere, partly because it does not flow like a liquid. It may be more accurate to think of this fluid as a type of connective tissue, because of its composition and because of the work it performs.

Each synovial joint in the body is somewhat like its own organ, with needs and nutritional requirements that differ from other areas of bone. Synovial fluid performs certain mechanical functions, such as cushioning joints and making it easy for bones and cartilage to move past each other. It also has the job of bringing oxygen and other nutrients to the cartilage and other areas of the joint. In addition to providing nutrients, it also removes carbon dioxide and other waste products from the cartilage, and takes these back into the bloodstream to be removed from the body.

To keep the synovial fluid in the same place around a joint, it is contained within the synovial membrane. The way in which the fluid is contained in the joint may be responsible for a phenomenon quite familiar to most of us, namely the "cracking" of joints. When someone produces a cracking or popping sound from one of the synovial joints, whether intentionally or not, it is popularly theorized that synovial fluid plays a role in this. When the two bones of a joint are pulled away from each other, the synovial membrane expands, but the fluid volume does not. In order to fill the empty space, gases dissolved in the fluid are pulled out, and when they fill this new empty space, a popping sound is made.

It is common in the medical field to remove a sample of synovial fluid for testing. There are various parameters and attributes which are analyzed in such a test, such as color, clarity, and white blood cell count. The observation and testing of this fluid can aid in the diagnosis of dozens of different ailments, from rheumatic fever to scurvy. The fluid is obtained by inserting a syringe needle into the area of the joint where the fluid is, and extracting a small amount into the syringe. Needles used in this procedure can be somewhat large, so the area is usually anesthetized beforehand.

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Discussion Comments

By anon933887 — On Feb 18, 2014

What causes infection that is hard to heal in the knees -- synovial fluid?

By anon345082 — On Aug 15, 2013

I've also read about B6 for helping synovial fluid. Does anyone have any experience regarding this?

By anon293864 — On Sep 28, 2012

I have just had surgery on my knee. Arthritis is the culprit for my pain. I have been searching and see that synovial fluid could be breaking down cartilage. Have you heard of this? And best foods and supplements that could help?

By lovelife — On Feb 10, 2011

@healthnwell -- I have read a few articles that said that using supplements like omega-3 or glucosamine can really promote joint health, though I've never tried any of them myself. I'm glad that it worked for your step dad though.

By healthnwell — On Feb 08, 2011

Did you know that adding omega 3, hyaluronic acid or glucosamine to your diet can really help rebuild your synovial fluid? My step dad did this after he had knee surgery and it definitely helped him out -- the doctors said he recovered in record time.

I'm pretty sure that you can also take these as supplements just to improve joint health in general -- is that true?

By abundancer — On Feb 05, 2011

When I was in anatomy and physiology class my professor likened synovial fluid and the synovial membrane to a big cushion that was placed between the joints to help keep them movable. This helped me to remember the job that the synovial fluid has in keeping the inflammation down.

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