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Exercise can help relieve pain from Baker's cyst

Exercise can help relieve pain from Baker's cyst
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Baker’s cysts

2-minute read

A Baker’s cyst, or popliteal cyst, is a fluid filled lump or swelling behind the knee. It is usually caused by excess fluid that comes from the knee joint.

People with a Baker’s cyst might also have arthritis or an injury such as a torn cartilage in their knee.

Baker’s cyst symptoms

If the cyst is small, you might not notice it.

Otherwise, you may have aching, a swelling or lump behind your knee, feel pressure when you straighten your leg, or stiffness or tightness in your knee.

Your doctor can often diagnose a Baker’s cyst by examining your knee and shining a torch through the lump.

You might also have an ultrasound or MRI scan.

Baker’s cyst complications

Occasionally Baker’s cysts become infected or grow bigger.

Sometimes a Baker’s cyst ruptures or bursts beneath the skin, causing pain and swelling in your calf. Your doctor may want to rule out a serious problem such as a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis).

Baker’s cyst treatments

If a child has a painless Baker’s cyst, it can usually be left alone. In children, most Baker’s cysts disappear eventually without treatment.

Adults can ease any pain from a Baker’s cyst with cold packs, or by taking paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medications.

The pain may also ease with physical activities such as walking, swimming or Tai Chi. If you are overweight, losing weight may help.

Taking supplements or wearing a brace is unlikely to help with your symptoms.

If you have a troublesome Baker's cyst, your doctor may drain it using an ultrasound and inject it with corticosteroids, which has been shown to result in significant improvements and a low chance of the cyst coming back.

If the cyst is associated with arthritis or a knee injury, then treating these conditions can help.

For some people, surgery is needed to fix the cause. For example, repairing a torn cartilage might help. Removing the cyst alone isn't helpful, as it usually comes back unless the underlying cause is addressed.

Your doctor can advise you on the treatment options that are best for you.

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Last reviewed: July 2019

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