How is a Baker’s cyst treated?

Treatment of a Baker’s cyst usually starts with nonsurgical options. One time-honored method that sports doctors and orthopaedic surgeons have relied on for decades to soothe swelling from joint damage is the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Nonsurgical treatment.

Often, your healthcare provider will suggest that you start with a nonsurgical treatment of your Baker’s cyst. These are generally things you can do at home and on your own that can improve your symptoms.

Nonsurgical treatment options can include the RICE method:

  • Resting your leg whenever possible.
  • Applying ice to your knee.
  • Using compression wraps on your knee to decrease the amount of joint swelling.
  • Elevating your knee while you are resting.

Other nonsurgical treatment options for a Baker’s cyst can include:

  • Taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight, which can help put less pressure on your joints.
  • Avoiding activities that strain your knee. This includes avoiding high-impact sports like jogging.
  • Using a crutch or cane when you walk.
  • Getting a referral for physical therapy from your healthcare provider to help strengthen your knee and body.

Your healthcare provider may also give you a steroid injection. This involves cortisone being injected into your knee joint, which can reduce inflammation (swelling) and pain.

Surgical treatment.

Even though surgery is rarely used to treat a Baker’s cyst, there are some cases where surgery might be recommended. Surgery may be used to repair the source of your knee damage.

Your provider might suggest a surgical option to you if:

  • Your knee pain is severe.
  • You’re unable to move your knee well (limited range of motion).

In many cases, your provider will treat the cause of your condition in order to fix your Baker’s cyst. This might involve surgery for a knee injury or to correct damage to your knee. In other cases, your provider might focus on the cyst itself. Surgical options for Baker’s cysts can include:

  • Cyst draining: Your healthcare provider can drain the fluid out of the cyst with a needle.
  • Arthroscopic Knee Surgery: This procedure can be used to both diagnose and correct knee damage. Your surgeon will make a small cut in your knee and insert a device called an arthroscope (a flexible tool with a camera on the end). This is also called knee scoping.
  • Knee Osteotomy: In this procedure, your surgeon cuts part of the bone in order to correct damage to your knee. This surgery can be an option for those with arthritis knee pain.

What will my recovery be like after knee surgery?

Recovery times can vary from person-to-person. What one person experiences when recovering from knee surgery may not be what you experience. Some tips to keep in mind as you recover can include:

  • Avoiding strenuous activities.
  • Keeping your knee propped up for a few days after surgery to decrease swelling or any pain you may feel.
  • Taking all of your pain and antibiotic medications as instructed by your healthcare provider.
  • Going to your follow up appointment with your provider several days after your surgery.
  • Doing physical therapy to continue strengthening your knee if it’s been suggested by your provider.

After surgery, you may feel a little tenderness and throbbing in your knee. Reach out to your provider if this, or any of pain, continues as you recover. You should be able to drive two weeks after your surgery. Talk to your provider about when you can do other activities.

Can there be complications if I don’t treat a Baker’s cyst?

Not all Baker’s cysts are treated. You might feel that the pain is mild and leave it alone. The cyst might go away on its own if it isn’t treated. However, there are other complications that can happen if a Baker’s cyst is left untreated, including:

  • The pain getting worse.
  • The cyst increasing in size.
  • The cyst bursting, causing bruising in the lower leg.

If the cyst doesn’t go away, reach out to your healthcare provider. It’s important to get the right diagnosis and make sure it is a Baker’s cyst. This condition could be mistaken for something more serious like a tumor or artery aneurysm, which is a medical emergency.

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