Bakers Cyst | Bakers Cyst Symptoms, Treatment and Exercises
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Baker’s Cyst

What it is a Bakers Cyst

A Bakers cyst, which is also called a popliteal cyst, is a collection of fluid at the back of the knee. This is generally due to pathology within the knee joint that provokes excess fluid and knee pain. You should think of this issue as fluid-filled sacs that compress some sensitive structures at the back of the knee, thus giving pain.

It is quite normal for the cyst to change in size from day to day, given the amount of stress within the knee joint may vary depending on the activities carried out.

Is a Bakers Cyst the main issue with my knee?

Not exactly. In fact, the palpable swelling of a Bakers cyst is usually the result of an intra-articular pathology of the knee. Meniscal tears, ACL injuries, different types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, and cartilage lesion are among the most prevalent diagnosis that could lead to a Bakers cyst.

Bakers Cyst Symptoms?

The most typical symptom of a Bakers cyst is pain and swelling at the back of the knee. Generally, you should be able to palpate a small lump in the inner-posterior part of the joint. Some positions or movements may be more uncomfortable than others due to excessive compression of the cyst, as in a deep squat and in bending the knee. However, also a prolonged period of standing may be uncomfortable.

Ruptured Bakers Cyst?

Yes, when excessive compression is applied to the cyst, for example, if you have been kneeling down or squatting extensively, this may rupture the cyst and cause the fluid to leak into your calf muscles and your ankle joint.

This may result in significant calf and ankle pain, along with swelling and bruising. There may also be a notable difference in size between the two calves. This is generally not an important problem, as the swelling tends to reabsorb within a few weeks. Elevating the leg along with simple calf muscle pump exercises may be a good combination to help reduce the swelling faster.

Ruptured Bakers Cyst

Bakers Cyst Treatment

In the majority of cases, conservative treatment such as physical therapy is warranted along with addressing the underlying intra-articular cause of the cyst. Hip-dominant exercises should be preferred over knee-dominant exercises, due to the compressive action, these may exert on the cyst. Examples of easy exercises to perform are:

  • Single leg Deadlifts
  • Crab walks
  • Long lever bridges
  • Side planks
  • Resisted Leg Extension
  • Straight Leg raise

Needle aspiration of the cyst along with a corticosteroid injection may be helpful in the short term. However, if the underlying issue that caused a Bakers cyst to arise in the first place is not treated, the problem is likely to recur.

Bakers cyst exercises to avoid?

As discussed above, a Bakers cyst tends to be compressed by activities that involve bending the knee. Hence, squats, lunges, and hamstring curls should be avoided in order to prevent a premature rupture of the cyst.

If you are a keen cyclist, adjusting the height of your saddle may be useful in reducing the amount of knee bending, thus making cycling less painful. Lastly, due to the location of the cyst between the medial gastrocnemius (part of the calf muscles) and the semi-membranous (part of the hamstrings), forceful stretching of the hamstring and of the calves should be avoided.

Bakers Cyst in children

Bakers cysts are not uncommon in children, especially boys aged between 4 and 8 years old. They may complain of a painless lump at the back of their knee, which fluctuates in size depending on the amount of activity they perform.

Unlike in adults, there is no apparent reason for the development of a Bakers cyst in a child. This may at times become uncomfortable after a prolonged period of standing but will be generally pain-free for the rest of the time. Treatment is rarely necessary as the issue tends to resolve spontaneously.