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The knee is a modified hinge joint that’s made up of the femur, tibia and patella bones. Ligaments, soft tissues and muscles help stabilize and move the knee joint. Cartilage bathed in synovial fluid coats the ends of bones so that they may glide smoothly against one another. When excess synovial fluid develops due to an sustained inflammatory state, the excess fluid may be pushed towards the back of the knee, where it can cause an out pocketing of the synovial lining of the knee and accumulate in small sacs and form what is known as a Baker’s cyst.

Causes of a Baker’s Cyst

A Baker’s cyst may be caused by inflammation related to the following conditions:

  1. Osteoarthritis (OA). The wear and tear of knee joint cartilage and soft tissue due to aging, overuse, or injury.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks its own cartilage and results in repeated episodes of swelling in the knee.

In some cases, a Baker’s cyst may not be sufficiently large to be recognizable. In others, it may present as a visible bulge or protrusion on the back of the knee.

Symptoms of a Baker’s Cyst

A Baker’s cyst may or may not produce symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they typically present in the back of the knee in the following forms:

  • Tightness
  • Stiffness associated with reduced knee flexion
  • Swelling
  • Pain

The first step in treating a Baker’s cyst is getting an official diagnosis.

Diagnosis of a Baker’s Cyst

A medical history, which includes the patient’s symptoms, medical history, prior injuries, current activities and a physical examination of the knee are used to diagnose a Baker’s cyst. In some cases, an orthopedic specialist may use an MRI or ultrasound to image the knee and confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of a Baker’s Cyst

Often times, a Baker’s cyst will go away on its own. Some of the things an orthopedic specialist may suggest that patients do to improve the symptoms while the cyst resolves are the following:

  • Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatories
  • A knee brace
  • A cane or walker

When a Baker’s cyst doesn’t go away on its own, an orthopedic specialist may use a needle and syringe to drain the cyst and/or use a corticosteroid injection to decrease pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Seeking Treatment for a Baker’s Cyst

If you have a Baker’s cyst that is causing the symptoms described in this post, please don’t hesitate to contact our offices in Mahwah or Clifton, NJ to arrange an appointment.  Dr. Nicholas Alexander is the founder of Mahwah Valley Orthopedic Associates and a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of hip and knee conditions.  Dr. Alexander completed his Fellowship in Adult Reconstruction and Reconstructive Surgery of the Hip and Knee at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and has over two decades of experience. He also serves as the Chairman of the Valley Hospital Total Joint Center. 

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