Bakers Cyst Knee

A Bakers Cyst knee is when there is swelling at the back of the knee which causes pain and stiffness. It was first discovered in the 19th century by Dr William Morrant Baker, and is also known as a popliteal cyst or knee cyst.

It occurs when there is swelling in the knee joint. The fluid seeps backwards out of the joint and into one of the bursa - a small fluid filled sac that sits between the hamstring muscle tendons and knee bones to prevent friction. The average size of a popliteal cyst is 3cm.

What Causes A Popliteal Cyst?

Any damage to the knee usually results in some swelling which can cause a Bakers Cyst knee. The most common cause is osteoarthritis where 50% of people develop a popliteal cyst. However, any injury to the knee eg a cartilage tear can bring on the condition.

Symptoms of a Bakers Cyst

Bakers Cyst knee often causes swelling & pain behind the kne

Often a popliteal cyst is so small you don’t even notice anything. The first symptom people tend to notice is a bulge behind the knee, a bit like a small water balloon. This can then cause pain behind the knee and tightness, especially when you bend and straighten the knee.

How is it Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually made by your doctor from what you tell him and what he can see. If there is any doubt the doctor can confirm the diagnosis of Bakers Knee Cyst by an ultrasound or MRI.

Treatment Options

Ice can be useful in reducing the pain and swelling associated with Bakers Knee Cyst

1) Ice - helps to reduce the swelling which will help to reduce the pain. Click the link to find out how to use it safely and effectively. Visit the ice wrap section to find the best ways to apply ice

2) Medication - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) eg ibuprofen can help to reduce pain and swelling (only take on advice of the doctor due to side effects)

3) Stretching exercises tightness in the muscles around the knee can aggravate a Bakers Cyst and stretches can be a very effective way of resolving the condition. Click the link to find suitable stretches

A bakers knee cyst can be aspirated - where a needle is used to remove the excess fluid from the popliteal bursa

4) Aspiration - If the popliteal cyst is large or causing pain behind the knee, the excess fluid can be drained with a needle by your GP. However, the problem often recurs – see Preventing Recurrence below for tips on how to avoid this

5) Injection - You may be offered a cortisone injection (mixture of steroid and local anaesthetic) by your doctor which works to reduce the swelling and reduce the pain behind the knee. Again, the effects are often short lived

6) Pulsed Electromagnetic Energy (PEME) - aka short wave diathermy can help to reduce the inflammation. This treatment is usually carried out by a physiotherapist. I have found this to be an effective treatment with a number of people suffering from a popliteal cyst

7) Surgery - may be indicated if the popliteal cyst is a result of damage in the knee eg a cartilage tear

Preventing Recurrence

Knee strengthening exercises and knee stretches can often help to prevent a Bakers Cyst knee returning. The stronger the muscles get, the less force goes through the bones making it less likely that the knee will swell which therefore prevents another knee cyst from developing. This is especially the case when the popliteal cyst has developed due to arthritis. Visit the knee arthritis section to find out more about the symptoms, daignosis and treatment of arthritis of the knee.

Possible Complications

Occasionally, a Bakers Knee Cyst bursts. The fluid then leaks down the back of your leg into your calf. This can cause swelling and/or a sharp pain in the calf. The fluid will gradually be reabsorbed into the body (can take up to a month). Pain medication can be used to alleviate any discomfort.

Not Sounding Quite Like Your Pain?

There are other causes of swelling and pain behind the knee besides Bakers Cyst knee. Visit the knee pain diagnosis for help working out what is causing your knee pain.

Go to Common Knee Conditions or Homepage

Your Comments

Share your knee pain experiences with others, whether it be ideas, top tips, things that worked well for you, problems you've had etc.......

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Updated 9th December 2014
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The material on this website is intended for educational information purposes only.  It should not substitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


See Also

Exercises to cure a Bakers Cyst

Other causes of knee pain

How can I strengthen my leg?

Treatment options - where to start?

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