Baker’s Cyst: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

A baker’s cyst is a condition that involves a fluid-filled sac or pocket called a

cyst those results in a bulge along with a tight feeling behind the knee. Extending or fully flexing the knee or any physical activity may cause pain.

A baker’s cyst occurs due to problems related to the knee joint such as a cartilage tear in the affected region or arthritis. Such conditions may result in the excessive production of fluid behind a knee, thus causing a baker’s cyst.

Baker’s cysts may be a very painful condition which may also cause swelling and discomfort, but it can be relieved if the underlying cause is taken care of.

Disclaimer: this post on Baker’s cyst is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize, manage and help treat these and other medical emergencies sign up for workplace approved first aid and CPR training.

Signs and symptoms

Occasionally, baker’s cyst may not cause any pain; therefore, you may not be able to notice it. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Knee pain
  • Swelling behind the knee or the leg
  • Stiffness

Signs and symptoms may worsen with physical activity or prolonged activity.

When to seek medical attention

If you experience swelling and pain behind your knee, see your doctor to get a diagnosis done to determine the underlying cause. In rare cases, the bulge behind your knee may be a sign of a severe underlying condition and not a fluid-filled cyst.


A fluid called synovial fluid acts as a lubricant to allow smooth swinging of the leg with minimum friction between the moving parts.

However, the knee may produce an excess of synovial fluid sometimes causing the buildup of fluid behind the knee resulting in a baker’s cyst.

Baker’s cyst may occur from:

  • A knee injury
  • Arthritis which cause inflammation of the knee joint


In most cases, baker’s cyst does not require any treatment and disappears on its own.

However, if the cyst is large and causes too much pain, see your doctor to receive the following treatments:

  • Medication. This includes corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation and pain. However, this may not prevent recurrence of the condition.
  • Fluid drainage. The doctor will drain the excess fluid from the back of the knee using a sterile needle
  • Physical therapy. This involves following the R.I.C.E. treatment regularly. Rest your foot from physical activity that may trigger symptoms. Ice the affected region to reduce pain and swelling for 215 minutes, every 3 hours. Compress using an elastic wrap and keep the leg elevated for as long as possible, especially while resting.

Physical therapy also involves range of motion exercises to strengthen the muscles round the affected knee joint and allow proper functioning.

You may have to take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen to relieve pain – avoid taking more than the recommended dosage given on the packaging.

Usually, treatment depends on the underlying problem, for example, if it is a knee injury such as a cartilage tear, you may require surgery to repair the damaged cartilage. Symptoms of arthritis are relieved with arthritis treatment. If the cyst persists, your doctor may suggest surgical removal of the cyst.

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