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Baker's Cyst : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Baker’s Cyst

A baker’s cyst or popliteal cyst is a condition when there is a lump of fluid that forms in the back of the knee that restricts movement and can be painful. It can be caused due to a tear in the meniscus or osteoarthritis, which causes the excess formation of fluids, causing a cyst.

Baker's Cyst Causes

 Some of the most common causes of a Baker’s cyst is when the synovial fluid is produced in excess and builds up in the back area of the knee. It can also be caused by chronic inflammation caused by arthritis. Knee injuries can also result in a cyst.

Baker's Cyst Symptoms

Pain can vary in intensity ranging from no pain to severe pain in the knee. One of the symptoms is a fluid-like lump behind your knee that causes pain. 

Another symptom of Baker’s Cyst is the immobility of the knees due to the lump.  Swelling in the knees, lack of flexibility and the presence of chronic pain due to arthritis can also be symptoms.

It is important to engage in physical activities that will give enough exercise to the knees and the legs and at the same time ensure not to strain it. Sedentary lifestyle can also cause the cyst formation.

How is Baker's Cyst Diagnosed

A Baker’s cyst needs to be diagnosed by a qualified doctor. Imaging such as X-rays and MRIs will allow the doctor to understand if there are any forms of arthritis present in the individual. Ultrasounds can also be performed to understand the intensity and nature of the cyst. Various blood tests may also be run to evaluate any forms of infection in the body.

When to See a Doctor for Baker's Cyst

 It is advisable to visit a doctor when the pain is interfering with the daily activities of the individual. It is also important to visit a doctor when the cyst increases with the pain, restricting the movement of the knees. It could also be a marker of arthritis, which needs immediate attention from the doctor. There are possibilities of the cyst bursting in the knees, causing infections and impacting the muscle in and around the knees, to prevent this it is advisable to visit a doctor. Bakers Cyst treatment should be sought only from a trained physical health professional. 

Complications of Baker's Cyst

In rare cases, the cyst may burst and cause issues such as pain in the calf region, and swelling of the knee and calf. These can look like clots in the muscles and will need medical intervention to rule out serious problems.

 This can result in mobility and flexibility issues in the knees and legs. This can affect your daily activities such as walking, running and standing for long periods of time. If anyone is in the occupation where one needs to walk, stand  or run a lot, it can impact performance at work.

Baker's Cyst or Popliteal Cyst Treatment

One of the most common ways of treating the cyst is the RICE method - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  This is a popular non-surgical intervention that depends on how the individual cares for the injury. To perform this, one must rest their legs on an elevated platform and apply ice on it, to reduce swelling and inflammation. Compression wraps will also work to help reduce the stress on the knees of the person.

Other forms of nonsurgical treatments would include anti-inflammatory drugs, maintaining body weight, avoiding stress on the knees, and using support while walking.

Surgical treatment can be given when the pain is unbearable and severely restricts the movement of the individual. This can also be performed when there is damage to the nearby areas of the cyst. Some of the popular methods of surgical treatment are:

Cyst draining, where the fluids are drained from the cyst

Arthroscopic knee surgery, where a tool is put into the knee to understand the injury and use it to correct the knees. This involves running tests and understand the condition of the cyst, ascertain any complications and ease diagnosis.

Knee Osteotomy is performed where the bone is slightly removed near the knees, to help aid movement. It is usually performed on people with chronic illnesses such as arthritis or baker's cyst knee. This helps reduce the immobility in the knees and allows for free movement. Often cysts can be cured on their own with some care, or through medications.

Physiotherapy for Baker's Cyst


Immobilization is recommended for several weeks after surgery to immobilize the knee, this can be achieved by wearing a knee brace. This is to ensure that there is no added strain on the knees and eases healing.

Massage therapy:

This can be performed to ease movements in the region, increasing circulation and reducing swelling. Muscle massage can help ease pain in the region as well.

Foam rollers:

Foam rollers can be used to assist any myofascial symptoms. Foam rollers allows you to gently apply pressure on the injured areas that can bring relief

Ice therapy:

Ice therapy is always a good treatment plan where ice is applied on the knee and on the cyst to reduce swelling and control circulation. It also helps reduce pain.

These are some of the baker's cyst exercises that can help in the improvement of pain management and aid recovery within a person. 

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