A Baker’s cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst, is a fluid-filled lump that forms behind the knee, causing tightness and restricted movement. This condition is caused by a problem that affects the knee joint, such as arthritis or a cartilage injury. Although it does not cause any long term damage, a Baker’s cyst can be very uncomfortable.
Often a Baker’s cyst causes no pain but rather discomfort when fully flexing or extending the knee. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Tightness behind the knee
- Swollenness behind the knee and sometimes in the leg
- Slight pain behind the knee and into the upper calf
Causes for a Baker’s cyst can be linked to a lubricating fluid known as a synovial. Synovial fluid is a clear liquid that helps the legs move efficiently and circulates throughout the knee joints to keep them lubricated. However, sometimes the knee produces build-up of excess joint fluid that is pushed into one of the small sacs of tissue behind the knee and when the sac swells up, it causes what is called a cyst. Baker’s cysts usually arise from almost any form of knee arthritis or cartilage tear.
The most common factors that can contribute to a Baker’s cyst are conditions that cause swelling within the knee, such as a meniscus cartilage tear or osteoarthritis.
Complications among a Baker’s cyst rarely occur, however, there are cases where the Baker’s cyst bursts and synovial fluid seeps out into the calf area causing:
- Rupture of the cyst
- Increase of the cyst in size
- Redness of the calf or a feeling of water running down the calf
- Extreme pain in the knee
There are a few home remedies as well as self-care activities that can be followed to help prevent a Baker’s cyst. These include:
- Wearing appropriate shoes and using of the balls of the feet to turn instead of the knees
- Proper warm up before exercising
- Taking proper care of the knee after an injury and seeing a doctor if it does not improve quickly.
- Using over the counter medication (ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, aspirin and others) when necessary to help relieve pain.
- Following the R.I.C.E. principles: rest the leg, ice the leg, compress the knee with a wrap and elevate the leg when possible (especially at night).