Knee Pain — Baker’s Cyst

Do you sometimes get an uncomfortable feeling behind your knee when you try and straighten your leg?  You may notice a bulge and swelling.  It may also be painful not only when you fully straighten your let but also when you try to fully bend it.

What you may be experiencing is a Baker’s cyst and you should go and see your doctor.  A baker’s cyst, or a popliteal cyst, is usually the result of an underlying knee joint problem that is not being treated.  Untreated arthritis or injury in the joint triggers the body to create too much synovial fluid, the lubricating fluid in your joints that is necessary to keep the cartilage in each joint operating smoothly.  This excess synovial fluid can move out of the knee and fill the popliteal bursa, a small sack of fluid that helps lubricate the joint.  The result is like having a balloon filled with jelly behind your knee.

Although Baker’s cyst can occur at any age it is more common as we get older.  Sometimes there is no pain and the cyst goes unnoticed.  More typically however you may experience pain while walking, tightness behind the knee, swelling in the leg or foot and/or swelling or pain in the knee joint.  In more extreme cases the Baker’s cyst may burst and cause sharp pain, swelling and redness in the lower leg as synovial fluid leaks down into the calf-muscle area.  If this happens seek medical care as these signs and symptoms are similar to those of a blood clot in the leg which requires urgent treatment.

Again it is important to realize that a Baker’s cyst tells you that there is an underlying inflammatory condition in the knee that needs to be addressed.

To calm down the inflammation and reduce symptoms begin by protecting the knee, take weight off the knee as much as possible.  Icing the inflamed area is also very important.  When not icing compress your knee with a wrap.  Finally elevate your leg as much as you can to relieve pressure in the knee and prevent the fluid from travelling down the leg and creating inflammation in the calf.

It will also be important for you to modify your activities to put less wear and tear on the knee joint until a diagnosis is made.  A Baker’s cyst will likely clear up on its own but if the underlying problem is not addressed you may again experience the symptoms of a Baker’s cyst.