Baker’s Cyst: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Oct 30, 2019

Are you having pain behind your knee that is limiting your mobility? You may have a Baker’s Cyst, which typically stems from problems with your knee joint or underlying knee damage. Recognizing the signs of a Baker’s Cyst will benefit you in the long-run. It can help resolve the underlying knee issues the cyst developed from.

Read more below to learn about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of a Baker’s Cyst and how our orthopedic doctors can help you.


Synovial fluid helps your leg move smoothly, and it reduces friction in your knee as it progresses. If you experience knee joint issues or knee damage, your knee can begin producing too much synovial fluid. As a result, there is a buildup of fluid that causes a Baker’s Cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst or synovial cyst. Examples of knee damage include:

  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid)
  • Direct injury to the knee(meniscus tear, ligament tear)
  • Inflammation
  • Gout

Children with juvenile arthritis of the knee can develop Baker’s Cysts, and women over the age of 40 are most commonly affected by a Baker’s Cyst.


Generally, Baker’s Cysts aren’t dangerous, and they may go away on their own. A patient may not experience any symptoms at all. However, it is important to note if you feel the following symptoms:

  • Swelling behind your knee and/or in the leg
  • Knee pain
  • Inability to fully flex or bend the knee
  • Failure to fully straighten the leg
  • Pain and joint stiffness

Symptoms may get worse after being active or standing for long periods. The pain may also worsen when you fully flex or extend the knee, or when you’re active.

The cyst can reduce in size or burst under the skin. If it ruptures, synovial fluid can leak into the calf below, and this causes pain, swelling and reddening. These symptoms resemble those produced by a blood clot in the calf, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a severe condition that requires immediate treatment.


Baker’s Cyst can be diagnosed by:

  • Taking a medical history. This will include information on the previous injury to the knee.
  • Physical exam. The doctor’s initial examination can confirm results with imaging tests.
  • X-ray. The lump will not be seen through an X-ray; however, it will help determine if there is arthritis present in your knee.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. An MRI uses magnetic waves instead of X-rays to show images.
  • Ultrasound test. An ultrasound uses sound waves that determine if the lump is solid or filled with fluid.

If you can recognize the symptoms of a Baker’s Cyst and seek treatment, your orthopedic doctor can help diagnose the underlying knee problem that caused the cyst.


There are various treatment options for Baker’s Cyst. Your healthcare provider will most likely start with the best non-surgical options available. If your cyst does not improve, surgery may be suggested.

Non-surgical Treatment Options:

  • Medication. Your doctor may inject corticosteroid medication into the knee; this helps to reduce inflammation. This may relieve pain, but it doesn’t always prevent recurrence of the cyst. Medicines are sometimes given to relieve pain and inflammation, including over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Fluid drainage. Your doctor may drain fluid from the knee joint by using a needle. This is called needle aspiration, and it is performed under ultrasound guidance.
  • Physical therapy. Icing, a compression wrap, and crutches may help reduce pain and swelling. Gentle range-of-motion and strengthening exercises for the muscles around your knee also may help to reduce your symptoms and preseBaker's Cyst rve knee function.

Other recommendations your orthopedic doctor may suggest:

  • Avoid activities that place strain on the knee.
  • Treat the primary source of damage to the knee.

Home Remedies:

  • Follow the RICE principles. These letters stand for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest your leg. Ice your knee. Compress your knee with a wrap, sleeve or brace. And elevate your leg when possible, especially at night.
  • Try over-the-counter pain-relieving medications. Drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, acetaminophen and aspirin can help relieve pain. Follow the dosing instructions on the package. Don’t take more than the recommended dosage.
  • Reduce your physical activity. By minimizing your physical activity, it will aid in the reduction of irritation in your knee joint. Your doctor can offer guidance on how long you need to reduce your activity levels. They may be able to suggest alternative forms of exercise you can do in the meantime.

Surgical Treatment Options:

When you have severe knee issues or experience mobility issues, your doctor might feel surgery is your best option. Your surgeon may only make a small incision on the knee. Surgery will relieve the problem if the initial cause of Baker’s Cyst is treated as well.

Your recovery time depends on the type of treatment executed. With medications or injections into the knee, recovery can be prompt, within days to weeks. If surgery is performed, healing can take one to three months.


At Mountainstate Orthopedic Associates, Inc. (MOA), we don’t want you to live with knee pain. If you are suffering from knee arthritis or have knee pain that disrupts your daily life, give us a call today. Our physicians can discuss your options to get you back to your routine, pain-free.

While a Baker’s Cyst can seem like a small hiccup in your day-to-day life, we believe that it is best to get it taken care of, along with the underlying problem that could be causing it. To learn more about knee injuries, download our guidebook below:

Read our guide to knee pain.

MOA provides comprehensive, state-of-the-art orthopedic care to Morgantown, Bridgeport and surrounding areas. Our fellowship-trained physicians specify in many areas including, sports medicine, hand and foot injuries, shoulder, knee, fractures, etc. We can diagnose and treat even the most complex orthopedic conditions.

Don’t wait to make your appointment. Give our staff a call today!

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