In a previous blog we talked about the different lumps and bumps that occur on the human body such as cysts, masses, and bony spurs. One particularly common cyst is called a Baker’s cyst and occurs behind the knee joint. This cyst, often found incidentally, can vary in size from negligible and asymptomatic to large, palpable, and constantly achy.
Patients with a Baker’s cyst often complain of a feeling of fullness behind the knee that hinders motion and creates a general feeling of stiffness. Often times, a patient will mention it to his or her primary care provider in passing. Due to the presentation of symptoms being similar to those of a blood clot, an ultrasound is often ordered to rule that out first. For specifically treating the cyst, an ultrasound is not necessary, but will reveal the dimensions and location of the cyst. Your physician will then refer you for an orthopedic consultation.
Upon coming to our clinic, your doctor will order (you guessed it) x-rays. These cysts are typically caused by the presence of arthritis or degenerative changes in the knee joint that create excess friction, so x-rays will reveal the extent of those changes. The cyst develops as the joint’s synovium produces excess synovial fluid that then leaks out the back of the joint and forms the cyst. Therefore, the treatment of the cyst focuses on addressing the cause of the issue (the knee arthritis) rather than the cyst itself. If the arthritis is not calmed down, the cyst will likely return sooner than later if drained of its fluid.
Baker’s cysts in and of themselves are not problematic unless they are causing intolerable symptoms affecting a patient’s daily life. Seldom will treatment directed specifically at the Baker’s cyst be recommended, but options could include a compression sleeve, oral anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections administered into the knee joint, and relative rest from aggravating activities. If the osteoarthritis of the joint is problematic enough, a total joint replacement may be considered.
Stiff and achy knees don’t have to be part of your daily routine. If this sounds familiar to you, give us a call so we can get that squeaky wheel moving more smoothly!