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Baker’s cyst: Causes and Treatment

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Baker's cyst, also called popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled cyst that causes a lump behind the knee leading to tightness, knee pain and restricted movement. The pain typically worsens when the knee bends and extends.

Baker's cyst occurs due to problems such as knee arthritis or knee cartilage injury. Both conditions cause excessive production of fluids behind the knee resulting to severe swelling. As the pressure increases, the fluid is propelled to the spaces behind the knee and creates a bulge causing a baker's cyst.

Baker's cyst can be a very painful and uncomfortable due to swelling. However, treating the underlying cause can often alleviate the problem.

Signs and symptoms

Some patients may not experience any pain with Baker's cyst. In some cases, you may not notice the cyst is there at all. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Knee pain
  • Swelling behind the knee or calf
  • Stiffness

Signs and symptoms may worsen with physical activity or prolonged activity.


The most common causes of a popliteal cyst are:

  • damage to the knee's cartilage (meniscus)
  • arthritis of the knee
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • other knee conditions that cause inflammation of the joint


Test and Diagnosis

Baker's cyst is often diagnosed with a thorough knee examination. However, because Baker's cyst tends to mimic other serious conditions such as an aneurysm or a tumor, additional diagnostic tests may be ordered such as Ultrasound, CT scan and MRI scan.


Baker's cyst usually requires no treatment. However, if it becomes swollen and causes severe pain, the doctor may recommend the following treatment:

Medications. The doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections (Cortisone) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammation.

Fluid Drainage. The doctor may drain the fluid from the knee-joint using a sterile needle. An ultrasound will be used to help guide the needle to the correct area and draw the fluid.

Physical therapy.Activities that can put strain on the knee should be avoided such as squatting, kneeling, running and heavy lifting. Regular, gentle exercises may help increase the range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the knee. Braces can also offer support in maintaining stability in the joint. You can also help reduce pain by using a compression wrap or placing ice pack on the joint.

Surgery. If there is an extensive joint damage, the doctor may surgically remove the cyst through a procedure called Arthroscopy on an outpatient basis. The procedure is usually done under a local or general anesthetic, depending on whether extensive repair has to be done.

Usually, treatment depends on the underlying problem, for example, if it is a knee injury such as a cartilage tear, you may require surgery to repair the damaged cartilage. Symptoms of arthritis are relieved with arthritis treatment.


Rarely, a Baker’s cyst can burst and synovial fluid leaks into the calf region, causing:

  • Sharp, severe knee pain
  • Swelling
  • Calf redness (may indicate blood clot in the vein)
  • Water trickling down the calf

If any of these symptoms are experienced, it is very important to seek prompt medical assistance.



Baker's cyst: Causes and Treatment https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bakers-cyst/basics/definition/con-20023332