Baker's Cyst

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How to train with a popliteal synovial cyst, or bursa, behind the knee

BT Member Question:
I have soreness and tightness in the area behind my knee at times and feel discomfort during my run. It doesn't keep me from running but I wish it didn't feel like it does. I'm not sure if I have a Baker's cyst or not. What are the symptoms and recommended treatments?

Answer by Adae Amoako, MD
Member AMSSM


What is a baker’s Cyst?


A baker’s cyst, also known as popliteal synovial cyst is a fluid filled sac that appears in the back of the knee. This sac is known as a bursa and it lies between two muscles (gastrocnemius and semibranosus) in the back of the knee. The bursa often communicates with the joint pushing synovial fluid from the joint into the bursa. Baker’s cysts form secondary to a joint injury (e.g. meniscal tears), inflammation, or degenerative disease such as arthritis.


What are the symptoms?


The symptoms of baker’s cyst include pain in the back of knee, swelling or feeling of a bulge behind the knee, and knee stiffness. These symptoms may worsen with activity such as running.


How are baker’s cysts diagnosed?


Baker’s cysts are diagnosed by physical examination. However, a knee x-ray may be done to diagnose arthritis or other bone problems that may be the primary cause of the cyst. An ultrasound can also be utilized which will show accumulation of fluid in the sac. Other soft tissue injuries such as meniscal tears can be diagnosed with an MRI. Some medical conditions like deep vein thrombosis, popliteal artery aneurysms, and ganglion cysts can mimic baker’s cysts.


What are the recommended treatments?


The principal treatment for baker’s cysts is treating the underlying problem.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be taken to help with pain and inflammation. The cyst can also be drained. Steroids that reduce inflammation (different from the ones athletes take) can be injected into the joint. Though rarely done, surgery can be performed to remove the cyst as well.




References:



  1. Handy JR. Popliteal cysts in adults: a review. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2001; 31(2):108.

  2. Miller TT, Staron RB, Koenigsberg T, Levin TL, Feldman F. MR imaging of Baker cysts: association with internal derangement, effusion, and degenerative arthropathy. Radiology. 1996; 201(1):247.

  3. Ahn JH, Lee SH, Yoo JC, Chang MJ, Park YS. Arthroscopic treatment of popliteal cysts: clinical and magnetic resonance imaging results. Arthroscopy. 2010; 26(10):1340.

  4. Fritschy D, Fasel J, Imbert JC, Bianchi S, Verdonk R, Wirth CJ. The popliteal cyst. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2006; 14(7):623.

  5. Acebes JC, Sánchez-Pernaute O, Díaz-Oca A, Herrero-Beaumont G. Ultrasonographic assessment of Baker's cysts after intra-articular corticosteroid injection in knee osteoarthritis. J Clin Ultrasound. 2006; 34(3):113.

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date: October 28, 2017

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

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The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) was formed in 1991 to fill a void that has existed in sports medicine from its earliest beginnings. The founders most recognized and expert sports medicine specialists realized that while there are several physician organizations which support sports medicine, there has not been a forum specific for primary care non-surgical sports medicine physicians.

FIND A SPORTS MEDICINE DOCTOR

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