What is Baker’s Cyst?
Baker’s cyst is one of the most common causes of pain behind the knee. Popliteal bursa, a sac filled with synovial fluid is present in the knee joint that helps in lubricating and reducing friction in knee during any movement. In this condition, the bursa develops inflammation and sensation of tightness behind the knee can be experienced. When pressure increases, ugly-shaped bulge can be protruded behind the knee.
It occurs normally due to any underlying knee problem like osteoarthritis, cartilage tear, etc. Conservative treatments works well in the case of Baker’s cyst and it heals naturally after a while. However, treatment can facilitate in speedy recovery. Occasionally, it can split open or burst resulting in deep vein thrombosis.
Children aged 4 to 7 years and adults aged 35 to 70 years are usually diagnosed with Baker’s cyst. It is also most common in adults than in children.
What are the Symptoms of Baker’s Cyst?
Sometimes, Bakers’ cyst causes no pain or remains unnoticed. However, generally it cause mild pain along with huge swelling behind the knee and calf. It also make knee stiff and causes tenderness on the affected area. The bulge is clearly visible and soft to touch. The range of motion will be decreased.
The cyst will become like water-balloon and sometimes break open into tissues of lower leg resulting in massive pain, swelling, redness and bruising. The pain will be persistent and create uneasiness in movement.
What are the Causes of Baker’s Cyst?
The synovial fluid helps your leg to move or swing freely. However, once the knee start to produce extra fluid, it will result in bulge at the back of the knee causing Baker’s cyst. It is mostly common in women when compared to men. People affected with osteoarthritis most likely ends up affecting with baker’s cyst. This happens due to many factors and some of them are:
- Knee injury such as cartilage tear or meniscus tear.
- Direct blow to the knee.
- Sports-related injury.
- Osteoarthritis – wear and tear arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – inflammation.
- Reactive arthritis – chronic condition of arthritis.
- Gout – waste uric acid in blood build up around knee.
- Hemophilia – hereditary condition due to improper blood clotting.
- Lupus – autoimmune disease
- Psoriasis – Dry and scaly skin disorder.
- Septic arthritis – form of bacterial infection.
Diagnosis of Baker’s Cyst:
Continuing daily activities overlooking the condition of Baker’s cyst will deteriorates the case furthermore because the it worsen over a time. It is advisable to consult your doctor as soon as possible upon noticing any bulge, pain or any stiffness in the knee.
Doctors will conduct physical test for examining your knee in detail and ask your medical history. Be honest with your doctors and whatever may be the cause of the condition, never hide any information with your doctor.
Doctors will conduct trans-illumination wherein he or she will shine a light through the cyst. If it passes through the bulge, then it is nothing but filled with synovial fluid and confirm the diagnosis.
MRI and Ultrasound may be needed for analyzing the condition much better. X-ray may not be needed but some doctors recommend it to check for any other knee conditions like osteoarthritis, cartilage tear, etc.
Treatment of Baker’s Cyst:
If the bulge is small, it will disappear naturally on its own and no treatment is required but it is advisable for consulting a doctors for undergoing an effective treatment. Some of the treatments used by the doctors are:
- Suitable Treatment: Since Baker’s cyst can be caused due to several underlying knee conditions such as gout, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., doctors may suggest suitable treatment. For example, proper medication for arthritis and surgery for torn cartilage or meniscus tear.
- Ice Pack Therapy: Also known as cryotherapy, it is one of the most effective ways of controlling the pain and restricting the swelling in the knee joint. Ensure you use ice-packs or ice wrapped in thick towel because direct contact of ice to the affected area will damage the skin and underlying tissues.
- Physical Therapy: Gentle exercises such as strengthening the quadriceps muscles and patellar ligament will increase the strength in the knee joint and range of motion.
- Knee Support: Crutches, cane or walker can also be used to help alleviate the pain behind the knee because they will take off the weight or burden off the knee allowing you to walk freely without any pain.
- Rest: Taking a break from day-to-day activities can also heal the condition naturally. However, avoid aggravating activities like squatting, kneeling, lifting heavy object, climbing stairs, etc because it may rupture the bulge and complicate the case.
- Bracing: Knee braces can also be sued to provide optimum support to the knee. They will create stability and strength to the knee joint.
- NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are very effective in providing relief to the patients. They contains the effects of analgesic and antipyretic i.e. pain and fever reducing properties.
- Compression Bandages: They limit the inflammation and support the knee from unnatural movements. Never wear the bandages tightly because you will feel numbness in the lower leg. However, you can remove it for a couple of times a day.
- Corticosteroid Injection: It is injected in the affected part of the knee to reduce the swelling.
- Fluid Draining or Aspiration: With the help of ultrasound, doctors will insert a needle to the affected part and drains out the fluid from the knee joint.
- Arthroscopy– if the conservative methods fails to bring respite to the patient, the surgery may be needed because the Baker’s cyst can be a result of physical injury or some underlying condition. Doctors will remove the cyst with keyhole surgery.
- Pulsed Electromagnetic Energy (PEME): It is also known as short wave diathermy, which is quite effective in reducing the inflammation. Only qualified physiotherapist are able to properly carry out this treatment.
Recovery Period for Baker’s Cyst :
Baker’s cyst normally takes few months to completely settle down. If it is not treated properly, then there is greater possibility to cause again. In some cases in children, doctors wait and watch the condition until they will disappear on its own.
Conclusion – Baker’s Cyst:
The outlook is good and there is no chance of permanent disability like in the case of osteoarthritis. Always stay healthy and avoid being overweight because it can put extra burden on the knee to cause the condition of Baker’s cyst to occur again.