TREATMENT - Baker's Cyst
Most orthopedic surgeons agree that a Baker's cyst should first be treated conservatively. This means without surgery. However, each person is different and your doctor may feel you need surgical treatment immediately. If you are told that you will require conservative care, you can remember the plan easily by remembering the words: Control, Avoid, and Rehabilitate.
Control: Get your pain under control
Usually, a Baker's Cyst is due to something causing inflammation within your knee. If you can reduce the inflammation within your knee, you can reduce the symptoms of the cyst.
Cryotherapy (ice, cold therapy) is an excellent way to control your pain. Do not apply ice directly to your skin for more than 5 minutes as it can cause burns. A device specially designed to cool your joint (see our PolarCare Cub) can be used for longer periods, as long as you carefully follow the directions and discontinue its use if you have pain or a burning sensation.
Over-the-counter pain medications can be of use. These include anti-inflammatories such as MotrinTM (ibuprofen) and AleveTM (naproxen), and pain medications, such as TylenolTM (acetaminophen).
Heat can be of benefit with a Baker's Cyst. Applying a heating pad on a low setting for 10-20 minutes at a time can help relieve some of your pain. Applying a simple over the counter analgesic cream such as Aspercream™ can also provide local pain relief.
Bracing. In addition to providing stability, braces provides pain relief by stimulating some of your nerve fibers which make you feel that your joint is more stable and secure. These are the same nerve fibers you compress when you grab your finger after you hit it with a hammer. Even though your finger was just smashed, you squeeze it with your other hand as hard as you can and it makes it feel better. If support helps, sometimes a simple elastic bandage is all you need; however, some people will feel better with a knee brace. Our DonJoy Comfort Knee Brace can provide comfort and protection to your swollen knee. It is made of cotton and will provide gentle compression in the back of your knee, where you are most tender.
Avoid activities that cause your pain
Just like the old bad joke about the patient that told the doctor: "Doc, everytime I do this, my knee hurts" and the doctor replies: "Well, don't do that!" Although this may seem humorous, there is some truth to the joke. Your body has developed a very complex mechanism to inform you that something is wrong. Humans that ignored these warning signs are no longer living with us today. When our great, great ancestors did not listen to this mechanism, they were killed off by disease or by predators. Thus, pain acts as a warning signal to stop, rest and do something else. Avoid such activities as squatting, kneeling, heavy lifting, climbing, and even running. Listen to your body and make a list of activities or movements that increase your pain and DON'T DO THESE THINGS. Also, make a list of activities and movements that reduce your pain and DO THESE THINGS.
Rehabilitate your knee
The key to this step is to remember controlled motions. This means you have complete control of these motions through a structured rehabilitation program. Most rehabilitation programs can be done in the convenience and privacy of your own home. In specific cases, your doctor may prescribe formalized physical therapy, with a therapist or trainer. With the diagnosis of Baker's Cyst, your physician may prescribe therapy focused on stretching and strengthening your quadriceps (thigh) muscle and/or your patellar (kneecap) tendon.
The keys to rehabilitation include
- Motivation to actually do the exercises. See our page on motivational strategies to improve your success.
- Correct exercises for your problem. See your doctor or physical therapist if you need advice in this regard.
- Proper equipment. This equipment can either be at your therapists office, at your health club, or items that you purchase for use at home. We have found that people who do their exercises at home are much more likely to benefit from the program as they more frequently perform the exercises.