A Baker’s cyst, or more formally known as a popliteal cyst. It could be described as a fluid-filled lump that causes the back of the knee to swell. Which leads to less range of motion and tightness in the knee.
The cyst can become more painful over time. Especially when you’re trying to bend, or extend your knee. Usually affecting the knee joint, this condition can come from things such as a cartilage injury, or arthritis.
Though the Baker’s cyst isn’t known to cause long term knee damage, living with it can become uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating. The possibility of it rupturing can lead to fluid tracking down the back of your leg and causing bruising around the ankle area.
What are the Causes of a Baker’s Cyst?
Now that you understand better what exactly a Baker’s cyst is, let’s go over what the causes of it can be.
In the knee joint there is a clear liquid found normally circulating near the areas of your knee. Called synovial fluid, sometimes the knee can produce too much of it.
Creating an increasing pressure, the fluid will be pushed to the back part of the knee. Because that only runs one way, it creates a large/bulging lump. The extreme swelling behind the knee, over time will cause a popliteal cyst to form.
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 joint inflammation.
The knee is a very complex joint and can become injured easily.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), about 10.4 million Americans saw their doctors about a knee problem in 2010, making it the most common reason for seeing an orthopedic specialist.
Another thing that can cause bruising and swelling behind the knee is a blood clot. It’s very important to have someone thoroughly examine the swelling you’re experiencing. Ensuring it’s a cyst, not a blood clot.
What are the symptoms?
It’s possible that you may not feel pain at all with a Baker’s cyst. Some may not even notice it.
If you are experiencing symptoms, they might include:
- mild to severe pain,
- limited range of motion,
- swelling behind the knee and calf,
- bruising on the knee and calf,
- or rupturing of the cyst.
How is it diagnosed?
To diagnose a Baker’s cyst, you will need to have it properly examined. Examining the knee and feeling the swelling should be done before diagnosing it.
If the cyst is smaller, they may just simply check your range of motion in both knees and compare them. The knee with the cyst against the healthy knee.
When you have your knee examined, they might start with some noninvasive tests. Observing the acceleration of size increasing. As well as ensuring that it’s not causing severe pain, or fever like symptoms.
Some of these basic tests might include an MRI, or ultrasound. The MRI enables the doctor to clearly see your cyst and check to see if there’s any cartilage damage. These tests can also determine whether or not another type of growth is causing the swelling, such as a tumor.
A cyst won’t show up on an X-ray, but doctors may want to run one anyway to look for things such as arthritis, or inflammation.
When it comes to preventing these cysts, there’s some simple steps you can take. Because they often occur after an injury to the knee.
Preventing knee injuries is the easiest way to avoid developing these cysts.
Tips to help avoid knee injury:
- Choose supportive shoes that fit properly.
- Properly warm up, as well as cool down before any form of exercise or sport.
- Avoid exercising on a knee that is already experiencing tenderness or pain.
- Find treatment for any current knee, leg, or foot injuries. If you’re injured, this increases the risk of fall, or accident and causing more harm.
Treating a Baker’s Cyst
Treatment for a Baker’s cyst can look like a lot of different things. Conventional ways recommended needles, surgeries and other invasive procedures. At Active Health, we recommend NON-SURGICAL ways of treatment.
With a number of treatments and exercises, you can reduce symptoms you’re experiencing from your cysts and maybe even prevent them from ever forming. Follow along below to learn how!
Choosing exercises that work on the preservation of your knee’s range of motion can help ease pain and prevent your muscles from weakening.
It’s important that before you begin using exercises for your cyst, you speak to a professional. This is because performing incorrect exercises can injure the knee further.
The following exercises may benefit a person with a Baker’s cyst:
Standing calf stretch
- Stand up straight in front of a chair or another heavy piece of furniture, and use it for balance, if necessary.
- Step back with the right leg, then bend both knees until there is a stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then switch sides.
- Sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor and the knees at a 90 degree angle.
- Lift one heel while keeping the ball of the foot on the floor.
- Push the top of the knee down to flatten the foot. Repeat this 10 times, then switch sides.
- Sit on the floor with the legs extended straight out in front of you.
- Loop a towel or exercise band under the balls of the feet, then gently pull backward.
- Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then switch sides.
- Baker’s cysts often form as a result of a knee injury. During recovery, walking may help a person gradually regain strength and mobility.
However, if you need to change your stance, or contort your knee into an uncomfortable position to walk properly, it may not be safe to walk yet.
Consult a professional.
Get Treatment at Active Health
Finally, while a lot of Baker’s cysts don’t show symptoms, they can definitely cause swelling and pain in the knee.
As they can possibly go away on their own, using a proper treatment full of exercises and treatments can help resolve the cysts at a faster rate.
We always recommended consulting a doctor if you find any lump, or growth before trying to diagnose and treat it yourself.
If you’re experiencing chronic degenerative knee pain, or knee pain that you want to treat in a non-invasive way, contact us at Active Health today!
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