Is a Bakers Cyst
Causing Your Knee Joint Pain?

A Bakers Cyst, also called a Popliteal Cyst, can be an annoying knee joint pain condition. What are they and what can you do about them?



What is a Bakers Cyst?

This posterior knee cyst is simply excessive swelling of the bursa in the back of the knee. Bursae function to help provide cushioning and lubrication between bones and tendons. Inflammation of the bursa causes it to protrude in the posterior aspect of the knee, often between the hamstring and calf muscles.

Fluid that builds up behind the knee can be the result of synovial fluid or swelling associated with other common knee conditions. Such conditions can include knee osteoarthritis, meniscus tears , and even rheumatoid arthritis. This posterior knee cyst can also develop following knee surgeries.


Bakers Cyst


Typical Symptoms

The most common symptoms of these cysts are pain and swelling behind the knee. Less often limitation of knee mobility may also occur. Specifically the ability to fully bend the knee can become limited. In the position of full knee flexion, a sensation of a “pinch” can be felt. Occasionally specific activities such as kneeling can be painful. However, in general they are not aggravated with specific activities.


Typical Treatment Protocol

The most common means of treating these cysts are through anti-inflammatory medication (consult your doctor regarding medications). Both oral and topical creams can help reduce cyst swelling. In cases when medication is not effective, a cortisone injection is a reasonable treatment choice.

The use of ice massage can also be helpful in reducing this posterior knee swelling. Simply fill Styrofoam cups up with water and put them in the freezer. Once the water is frozen, peel off the top of the cup, exposing the ice. Massage the back of your knee for three to five minutes.


In significant cases when other anti-inflammatory measures have not been effective, cortisone injections may be utilized.


Physical Therapy


Physical therapy can be helpful in reducing the swelling associated with these cysts. The use of ultrasound, massage, and iontophoresis are common treatment options for Bakers cysts.

Ultrasound can be used to help increase tissue temperature prior to doing soft tissue massage. A type of ultrasound called phonophoresis can also be used to help decrease inflammation. With this type of ultrasound, an anti-inflammatory medication is mixed with the ultrasound gel with the ultrasound treatment used to administer the medication.

Finally, iontophoresis is a modality in which an electrical device is used to deliver an anti-inflammatory medication located in an electrode to the region.

Generally with cysts,exercises are usually not helpful unless the cyst is associated with a secondary knee issue.

Surgery is rarely required for cyst removal. Because they pose no structural concern, managing pain is the only concern. Conservative treatment of anti-inflammatory medications, ice, and physical therapy are generally very effective in reducing symptoms related to this cyst.


If your posterior knee cyst is annoying, treatment options are available. Consult your doctor on determining the best treatment choice for you.




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