What is a Baker’s Cyst (knee), treatment, rupture and surgery


What is a Baker’s Cyst?

The cyst Baker  is a swelling in the popliteal bursa, which is at the rear knee, between the tendon and calf muscle. It happens because of an increase in the production of synovial fluid, the lubricant of the joints. It can be caused by knee injuries and be asymptomatic.

As a curiosity, bursa is the name given to the small bag of lubricating liquid that lies between the bone and the muscle or tendon. There are hundreds of them all over the body.

Also known as a popliteal cyst, it is often too small to be found on physical examination and is usually discovered by chance on other examinations. It is rarely necessary to treat it, as it is usually caused by other diseases or injuries to the knee. Therefore, addressing only the cause usually eliminates the cyst


Knee injuries and inflammation are the most common causes of a Baker’s cyst. The various forms of arthritis , which is an inflammation of the joint, can cause an increase in the production of synovial fluid, as well as severe blows to the knee, especially when there is damage to the menisci.

In short: arthrosis , rheumatoid arthritis , juvenile arthritis and knee injuries that hurt the menisci or ligaments can cause a Baker’s cyst.

Is Baker’s cyst a cancer?

No! Baker’s cyst is not cancer and there is no possibility that it will become one. It is a benign tumor that often resolves on its own and can indicate problems that may be happening in the knee joint.

Groups of risk

Some risk groups exist. Are they:


Elderly people are more prone to joint diseases such as osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis caused by the wear and tear of cartilage. When it occurs in the knee, it can cause a Baker’s cyst.


Obese people need to make a greater effort to support their weight and this causes injuries to the knee joints, leading to popliteal cysts.

People with arthritis

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis or any other type of inflammation of the joint may experience increased production of synovial fluid, leading to Baker’s cyst.

People with joint hypermobility syndrome

This syndrome is usually benign and presents through joint mobility above normal. Patients with this syndrome are at increased risk of developing these cysts.


Some young children may have a Baker’s cyst. In children, the cyst can appear even without joint problems. When the swelling is large enough to appear, parents may be frightened, but the cyst is usually painless and goes away on its own.


Often Baker’s cyst is asymptomatic, but when it is large enough, there are the following symptoms:


When the swelling of the popliteal bursa is large, a lump can be seen on the back of the knee as a small fluid-filled pouch. It can be felt under the skin and is most easily seen when the leg is straight.


On some occasions, the back of the knee may become swollen.


Although most of the time it is painless, the cyst can cause pain when it is very large.


The cyst can cause stiffness in the joint, making it difficult to bend the knee.

How is Baker’s cyst diagnosed?

Baker’s cysts can be seen and felt on the outside when they are large enough, but most of the time they are too small for this and different tests are needed to find and identify him.

Those diagnosed are orthopedists , physiotherapists  and general practitioners  through the following exams:

Physical exam

During physical examination, the doctor can make the diagnosis if the cyst is visible or close to the skin. The cyst must have clearly defined edges, it must move when the person raises or lowers the leg, and it is usually possible to feel it when the patient lies on his stomach and stretches the leg or the bend at a right angle.

Imaging exams

The ultrasound  and MRI  can be used to eliminate the possibility of the cyst found on medical examination to be something else.

Rarely does the cyst grow large enough to be seen from the outside and be symptomatic, so it is by chance  that it is most often found. The patient may experience knee pain due to an injury and, during imaging exams, the cyst and the injury that causes it are evident.


Although the radiograph does not show the cyst, it can also be used to find conditions that may have caused Baker’s cyst to grow, such as osteoarthritis.

Cisto de Baker tem cura?

Yes, Baker’s cyst can be cured . It usually goes away on its own after the cause of the increased production of synovial fluid has been treated and, by itself, does not pose a major health risk.

What is the treatment?

Rarely does a Baker’s cyst need treatment. What needs to be treated is its cause and the cyst clears up on its own sometime after that, but in some cases, when the cyst is very large and causes a lot of pain or discomfort, it can be drained  with a needle or treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids, in addition to painkillers.

Physiotherapy  may also be recommended in cases of severe pain, along with frequent drainage of the cyst with an ultrasound device.


In cases where drainage is not feasible, since the synovial fluid is quite thick, making it difficult to pass through the needle, surgery may be necessary to remove the cyst.

Remembering that treating only the cyst can cause it to recur, since the cause of the increased fluid production has not been treated.

Compression socks

Avoiding thrombosis is important, as this is a serious condition that can be favored by a Baker’s cyst. Compression stockings prevent deep vein thrombosis from settling in the leg veins.

Treating at home

It is possible to treat the cyst at home with some methods. Remember that if the cause of the cyst is not treated, the chances of it coming back are high, so it is recommended to go to the doctor, but you can reduce the symptoms with some methods:


Apply ice for twenty minutes behind the affected knee, on the swollen part. The swelling, stiffness, discomfort and the lump may subside and disappear. In direct contact with the skin, the ice can cause frostbite. So remember to wrap the ice in a towel or cloth.


Avoid straining on the leg affected by the cyst. This can decrease the amount of fluid produced and can be enough to reduce the swelling. Whenever you can, rest your leg.


Wrap a cloth around the leg, applying pressure, but without exaggerating so as not to cut off the circulation. You can use an elastic band to secure the cloth, stabilizing the knee.


Whenever you can, keep the affected leg elevated above the height of the heart. This helps to reduce swelling. When lying down, you can use a pillow or folded towels to create the lift.

Baker’s cyst medications

When the cyst needs drug treatment, which is rare even when it is visible, the main drugs are these:

  • Ibuprofeno (Advil);
  • Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) ;
  • Naproxen sodium (Flanax) .


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained in this website is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.


Most of the time, Baker’s cyst heals completely on its own. In rare situations it can have some unpleasant complications but, if its cause is treated by a doctor, the cure is almost guaranteed.

If the condition that causes the cyst is not curable, as is the case with rheumatoid arthritis, the cyst may return frequently, but in these cases, it rarely poses a risk.


There are some complications that can result from a Baker’s cyst. Both have very similar symptoms, so if you feel them, go to the hospital quickly.

Cisto de Baker roto

If it becomes very swollen, the cyst may rupture. When this happens, synovial fluid may flow into the calf, causing severe pain, redness, swelling and difficulty in moving the leg, and may even prevent the patient from walking. In such cases, surgery is necessary to drain the fluid from the leg.

Deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is what happens when a blood clot blocks a vein. It is a dangerous condition, as the clot can move and lodge in the lungs. Thrombosis needs to be treated by a doctor and is the main complication that a Baker’s cyst can cause, although it is rare.

The symptoms are similar to those of a ruptured Baker’s cyst: Severe pain, redness, swelling and difficulty in moving the leg.

How to prevent or Baker’s cyst?

There is no way to prevent Baker’s cyst. Any knee injury can cause increased production of synovial fluid, but it can also happen for other reasons. What you should do is pay attention to the health of your knee and go to the doctor if you notice swelling in your leg.

You can strengthen the knee muscles and the joint to prevent injuries to it, which decreases the chance of Baker cysts appearing.


Stretching the legs and all the members of the body increases the flexibility of the joints, preventing injuries.


Swimming is an exercise for the muscles and joints of the whole body, with the advantage of not having as much wear and tear as other exercises.

Baker’s cyst is not a serious condition, but it can be the sign of one. Usually it resolves itself, but if its cause is not resolved, it tends to come back to bother you. If you have a Baker’s cyst, see a doctor to find the causes!

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