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Bakers Cysts And Back Of Knee Pain: What Does It Mean?

Bakers Cysts And Back Of Knee Pain: What Does It Mean?
Bakers Cysts And Back Of Knee Pain: What Does It Mean?

Bakers Cyst: A Possible Cause Of Back Of Knee Pain

Patients complaining of back of knee pain is not as common an occurrence as patients complaining of anterior knee pain. One of the potential causes of back of knee pain is the presence of a popliteal cyst, more commonly known as a Bakers cyst.

  • A Bakers cyst is the name used commonly for swelling in the back of the knee. The swelling is caused by a collection of synovial fluid being pumped inside the bursae at the back of the knee.
  • Synovial fluid is basically the joint fluid and bursae are sacs of fluid that can be found throughout the body existing to help cushion and reduce friction in the area.

Generally this swelling is in the gastrocnemiosemimembranosis bursa and can be felt or seen between the two heads of the calf muscle at the back of the knee, with the swelling being the easiest to visualize when in standing.

Bakers Cysts Typically Cause Only Mild Symptoms

Back of the knee pain as the result of a Bakers cyst is typically mild unless the swelling becomes particularly large or there’s a rupture of the Bakers cyst. Large Bakers cysts can restrict movement of the knee and create pain and aching, a ruptured Bakers cyst most likely will cause acute back of knee pain and swelling in the calf and or ankle area as the fluid drains down the leg. However, a lot of the time Bakers cysts are relatively asymptomatic and may just be a visual or palpable swelling in the back of the knee associated with a sensation of tightening behind the knee.

A Secondary Symptom

A Bakers cyst is caused by inflammation from within the knee joint and can be associated with any condition causing inflammation and swelling in the knee. Hence Bakers cysts are really a secondary symptom resulting from an underlying knee condition. Meaning it is not a complete diagnosis in itself but assessment should be undertaken to highlight the underlying cause.

Common Causes Of A Bakers Cyst

Common knee conditions causing Bakers cysts can include knee osteoarthritis or meniscal (cartilage) tears. Bakers cysts may present as the result of injury or a chronic condition. Physical assessment by a skilled physiotherapist, sports medicine specialist, orthopaedic surgeon may sometimes need to be combined with either ultrasound imaging to view the cyst as well as MRI or Xray investigations to look for any arthritis or other pathology that could be the cause of the inflammation in the knee.

Treatment For Back Of Knee Pain Due To A Baker’s Cyst

Treatment of a Bakers cyst should always look at addressing the underlying cause hence assessment and accurate diagnosis of the knee is vital to managing this cause of back of knee pain. A Bakers cyst is seldom removed surgically as they inevitably return without first solving the underlying cause, however solving the underlying cause almost always resolves the Bakers cyst.

If you have back of knee pain you suspect is from a Baker’s cysts then always seek medical advice as it is almost always a representation of some underlying knee condition that needs assessment and management.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance on A Bakers Cyst And Back Of Knee Pain should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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