Despite the name, this has nothing to do with a baking profession. It’s only called that because the first doctor to describe the problem was Dr. William Baker back in 1877. The other term used to describe this condition is a ‘Popliteal Cyst’.
It may sound worrying but in reality, it’s pretty simple to get rid of it.There are two types of this, the first of which is the primary cyst. This can occur in anyone at any age and with no health concerns at all. Doctors call these idiopathic. They don’t mean you’re an idiot. It’s just there’s no underlying cause for the cyst.
The secondary cyst is the type that often affects those over the age of 40 with an underlying medical condition.
If you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis then this can happen. Gout is another condition that can cause you to experience knee pain. If you have any medical conditions affecting your joints, then you can be affected by a secondary cyst, which is what will be used to treat it.
Doctors don’t always treat the cyst itself, but rather the underlying cause of the cyst. The underlying cause is more often than not, joint problems.
It’s all about the fluids in the knee
Your entire knee is surrounded by a thick structure to protect it, and that’s lined with a membrane called the synovium, which produces synovial fluids. That’s needed to keep your knee joint lubricated, and it’s that fluid that’s inside a baker’s cyst. It happens when the knee produces too much synovial fluid that it causes the joint to stretch and result in a cyst at the back of your knee.
Depending on the amount of excess fluid produced, you could have a small or a large cyst. The larger the cyst, the more discomfort you’ll have. For small cysts, there’s often no pain associated with it all but nevertheless, you should do what you can to rest your leg up and prevent the cyst getting bigger.
Whatever you do, do not burst it. It might not even be that fluid that’s in the cyst.
What you should do is use the R.I.C.E approach
As the cyst is caused by excess synovial fluid, you need to do what you can to rest your leg. The more you move around, the more your knee joint is going to lubricate your joint with the fluid. If it’s only a small cyst, the more you move around, the more fluid will built up in the cyst, and cause a minor one to grow in size and cause you pain and discomfort later.
That’s usually when people tend to start looking into how to get rid of it. When it’s reached the pain stage.
Ice has a major effect on joints, and is an effective pain remedy. Cold treatment therapy is good for any type of joint pain. The only thing to remember when using ice is to never put it directly onto your skin. You could wind up with a burn. A Bag of frozen veg will have the same effect.
Compression stockings work great for cysts, because they minimize the swelling around the knee joint. Provided you are using them along with plenty of rest. They won’t work if you aren’t getting sufficient rest.
This is crucial because of the effect it has on your blood flow. When you’re lying down with your leg elevated, it reduces the pressure on your veins and they then begin to increase blood flow around your legs. You’ll definitely want to do this for pain relief purposes anyway.
If it’s causing severe pain to the point where it is affecting mobility, then make an appointment with the doctor to have it checked out.
What’s the doctor going to do?
Doctors can do a lot more than hand you a prescription.
1. They can give you Injections
A Corticosteroids Injection can be given directly into the knee, which will reduce the swelling, thus reducing the pain you experience. They can also prescribe you painkillers, but you can pick those up yourself too. You need something that is anti-inflammatory. Ibropufen or something similar.
2. Ultrasound or MRI referral
This is usually only for recurring problems so if this is the first time you’ve experienced this problem, you’ll find that you’ll be advised to use the R.I.C.E techniques to get rid of a baker’s cyst at home.
This may also be considered just to rule out more serious conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis or an aneurysm.
3. Arthroscopy referral
If a scan reveals injury to the knee joint or the surrounding tissue, such as a cartilage tear, then arthroscopy may be required.
Arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery that is used on the joints. For the purposes of recurring baker’s cysts, it could be a cartilage tear that’s causing the problem, in which case repairing the tissue would resolve the recurring problem.
When a baker’s cyst bursts
If this happens you’ll know about it because it is painful and you will need to see the doctor. When the cyst bursts, the fluid leaks into your calf muscles, causing swelling, itching and redness to occur. It’s difficult to tell the difference between a burst cyst and a DVT, which is why you need to see the doctor. When you tell them the symptoms that lead up to the excess pain, they’ll have a good grasp on whether it’s a DVT or a burst cyst.
A DVT is a serious condition, whereas a burst cyst isn’t.
The excess fluid that’s been leaked into the calf muscles will simply be reabsorbed by the body. That can take a few weeks to happen and during that time, you will be in more pain, so it is likely that you’ll need to switch to a stronger painkiller.
If you’ve been diagnosed with any type of arthritis, then there is a higher risk that you could develop a baker’s cyst. For that reason, any time you feel pain in your knee joint, feel around the back of your knee for swelling. The quicker you can spot a small cyst, the sooner you can apply the R.I.C.E approach and prevent it becoming larger and more problematic later.