How to Cure a Baker’s Cyst

A Baker’s cyst (also known as a popliteal cyst) is a fluid filled sac (cyst) behind the knee that causes tightness, pain, or knee stiffness which may worsen when you move your leg around or during physical activities. If you have a baker’s cyst, scroll down to Step 1 to learn about how you can get rid of it with both natural and medical remedies.

Reducing Pain at Home
Rest your knee as much as you can. If you have a baker’s cyst, you will probably be feeling some pain and irritation in your knee. In order to reduce this pain, give your knee as much rest as possible. Sit whenever you can and stay away from physical activities like climbing, kneeling, lifting heavy objects, running, and squatting. Make sure that you elevate your leg rather than letting it dangle to the ground when you are resting.[1] If you absolutely must move around, use a crutch, cane, or walker to allow your knee to rest while you move around. Putting pressure on the knee by walking around without a cane or other walking device can increase your pain.

Use RICE therapy. RICE stands for resting your knee, icing the cyst, compressing the knee with ACE bandages, and elevating your leg when you can. RICE therapy will help to reduce the inflammation caused by your cyst through the use of the ice and keeping your leg stationary. Elevating your knee will ensure that the swelling in your knee goes down because the fluid drains rather than accumulates in your knee when it is elevated.[2]Resting your knee means making sure you use it as little as possible. Read the previous step for more information.

Icing the knee means putting an ice pack on the spot where the cyst is located. The cold temperature will reduce the pain and inflammation that you feel.

Compressing your leg means wrapping bandages around your knee so that your knee remains stationary.

Elevating your leg means propping it while you are sitting so that it extends out in front of you and is level with, or above, your hips.

Make sure that your knee is wrapped the right way. If you doctor has recommended that you wrap your knee, or you are using RICE therapy, you need to make sure that you are wrapping your knee correctly. Make sure that the elastic wrapping is tight, but not so tight that you leg starts to tingle, becomes numb, or becomes swollen directly below where the wrapping is.[3] Do passive exercises to keep your leg strong while you wait for your cystto heal. In order to strengthen your leg and keep it flexible, you should do some very basic stretches and strengthening movements. The movement that is most recommended is flexing (bending) your knee and then extending (straightening) it back out. This movement helps to stretch and strengthen two of the muscles near the knee (the quadriceps and the patellar). If you find that you have a hard time doing this yourself, you can also go to see a physical therapist who can run through a series of movements that can help you strengthen and stretch your leg.

Use an ice pack to minimize the amount of pain you feel. Its generally best to keep the ice from being applied directly to your skin, so wrap your ice pack in a thin towel before putting it on your knee. Put the ice pack on the spot where your cyst is and keep it there for 10 to 30 minutes. If the coldness starts to hurt your skin, remove the ice pack.[4]
If you don’t have an ice pack, you can also use a bag of ice or a bag or frozen vegetables.

Try a hot pack to reduce your pain. Some people find that heat works better than cold when it comes to fighting pain. Dip a washcloth in warm to hot water and use it to gently massage the area where the cyst is located. This process might be painful at first, but keep in mind that the pain will decrease in time.[5]
If you find that the heat works for you, you can keep the heated washcloth on the spot for thirty minutes, three times a day.

Getting Medical Treatment
Take over-the-counter painkillers. Before you get your cyst treated or removed, you can take over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers that will help you to feel more comfortable. These painkillers should also be anti-inflammatory so look for NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen. You can buy these anti-inflammatory medications at any drugstore.[6]

Get a prescription for steroid medication. You can get steroid injections directly into your knee in order to relieve the pain and inflammation that is keeping your leg from moving properly. However, its important to keep in mind that these injections do not necessarily ensure that the cyst will stay away for good.[7]
Your doctor will most likely recommend a corticosteroid called cortisone. He or she may also recommend prednisone, depending on his or her preference.

Talk to your doctor about draining the cyst. Draining the cyst is a relatively simple procedure, but you will most likely be put under general anesthesia during the draining. The doctor will drain the cyst with a sterile needle. After, the area will be cleaned up using an antiseptic solution, your knee will be bandaged, and you will be sent on your way.[8]

Consider surgery. Surgery is generally considered as a last resort when it comes to baker’s cysts. This procedure is also done under general anesthesia and you will be put to sleep while it happens. The doctor will remove the swollen tissue in your knee that leads to the formation of these kinds of cysts.[9]
Another, less common, surgical option is called the keyhole method. In this procedure, the surgeon seals off the connection between the knee joint and the baker’s cyst.

If you are obese, it is recommended that you lose weight after your cyst is healed because being overweight can put a lot of strain on your knee and can cause further damage.

Do not try to push yourself by walking on your knee when you have a baker’s cyst.

Sources and Citations
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