Bakers Cyst (Popliteal Cyst)

A Bakers Cyst or Popliteal cyst is a swelling at the back of the knee. It is usually caused by an injury or condition in the knee joint which will make the back of the knee swollen. There is usually a very obvious round golf ball sized swelling at the back of the knee.

Bakers cyst symptoms

A Bakers cyst is a rounded swelling the size of a golf ball at the back of the knee. A sensation of pressure in the back of the joint will be felt which can go down into the calf muscle. The patient will have difficulty bending the knee joint. If the lights are turned out and a torch is shone through the lump you should see a red glow around the lump indicating that the swelling is filled with fluid.

What is a popliteal cyst

Bakers cystIn the hollow bit at the back of the knee is a bursa or small sack of fluid used to help lubricate the joint. A fairly uncommon condition is when the back of the knee joint gets swollen and causes the bursa to swell as well. Usually some disorder of the knee causes the synovial fluid within the knee joint to increase. Synovial fluid is the knees natural lubricating fluid. This then spills into the bursa at the back of the knee causing it to increase in size and swell up. This is known as Popliteal Cyst or more commonly known as a Bakers cyst.

In younger athletes the cause may be a torn cartilage meniscus may be the underlying cause. In older athletes arthritis might be suspected as a possible cause. Any damage within the knee joint may cause swelling and therefore a Baker's Cyst.

Bakers cyst treatment

What can the athlete do?  

Rest is important. Avoid any activities which aggravate or make the condition worse. Change training methods if possible for example substitute swimming or cross trainer machine for running. It is possible the symptoms may simply disappear by themselves. In children the condition may just suddenly clear up however if it doesn't then surgery is an option. Children undergoing surgery stand a 40% chance of the popliteal cyst returning.

Try wearing a compressive, wrap around knee support to help reduce the swelling. If symptoms do not clear up on their own then seek professional advice and have a full knee examination to identify the cause of the Bakers cyst or swelling.

What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?

They will examine the knee and diagnose what is causing the swelling in the first place. The correct treatment program can be put in place. Possible causes can include could be a cartilage meniscus tear, Osteoarthritis or injury to the kneecap.  

For more serious cases a surgeon may operate to correct whatever might be causing the swelling including cartilage meniscus, foreign bodies or bursa that may need removing. You should be out of action for 8 to 12 weeks following surgery.

Be aware that lumps in the back of the knee are most likely a Popliteal Cyst but might possibly be a tumor or an aneurysm or swelling in an artery. If unsure always seek advise of a therapist or doctor.

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