The knee is a modified hinge joint that’s made up of the femur, tibia and patella bones. Ligaments, soft tissues and muscles help stabilize and move the knee joint. Cartilage covered in synovial fluid coats the ends of bones so that they may glide smoothly against one another. When excess synovial fluid is pushed towards the back of the knee, it can accumulate in small sacs and form what’s known as a Baker’s cyst.

Causes of a Baker’s Cyst

A Baker’s cyst is typically caused by inflammation related to the following conditions:

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA). The wear and tear of knee joint cartilage and soft tissue due to aging, overuse, or injury. Worn cartilage causes the knee to become inflamed.  This inflammation causes the capsule to make extra fluid which then collects in the Bakers cyst in the back of the knee.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks its own cartilage. This inflammation can cause significant swelling which collects in the back of the knee.
  3. Meniscal Tears. The meniscus is the rubbery fibrocartilage between the cartilage on the tibia and femur. Meniscal tears can cause inflammation as they flip up and down between the cartilage on the bone. 

In some cases, a Baker’s cyst may not be recognizable. In others, they may present as a visible bulge or protrusion on the back of the knee.

Symptoms of a Baker’s Cyst

Baker’s cyst may or may not produce symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they typically present on the back of the knee in the following forms:

  • Tightness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Pain

The first step in treating a Baker’s cyst is getting an official diagnosis.

Diagnosing a Baker’s Cyst

A medical history, which includes the patient’s symptoms, medical history, prior injuries, current activities and a physical examination of the knee are used to diagnose a Baker’s cyst. In some cases, an orthopedic specialist may use an MRI or ultrasound to view the knee and confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment for a Baker’s Cyst

Often times, a Baker’s cyst will go away on its own. Some of the things an orthopedic specialist may suggest patients do to improve symptoms while the cyst goes away are the following:

  • Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatories
  • A knee brace
  • A cane or walker

The most important way to treat a Baker’s cyst is to effectively treat the underlying cause of knee swelling.  When a Baker’s cyst doesn’t go away on its own, an orthopedic specialist may use a needle and syringe to drain the cyst and/or use a corticosteroid injection to decrease pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Seeking Treatment for a Baker’s Cyst

If you have a Baker’s cyst that is causing the symptoms described in this post, please don’t hesitate to contact our office to arrange an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.  We have 5 offices located throughout Long Island.

The physicians at Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine focus on both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of bone and joint injuries.  Renowned experts Dr. Charles RuotoloDr. Richard McCormack, Dr. Brett Spain and Dr. Paul Pipitone lead our Knee Team.   Fortunately, many patients can be treated non-surgically with a combination of conservative modalities coordinated by the Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team. If surgery is necessary, the practice uses a multidisciplinary approach to create a treatment plan that focuses on the patient’s lifestyle and activities and helps them get back to those activities quickly and effectively.  When in the hands of one of our expert Orthopedic Surgeons, a full recovery is possible!