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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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)
– 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
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
Knee strengthening exercises
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
section to find out more about the symptoms, daignosis and treatment of arthritis of the knee.
Occasionally, a Bakers 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
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