Baker’s cysts are caused by joint damage from a number of conditions, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, torn ligaments, and gout. When the fluid that helps the joints move smoothly collects in the bursa behind the knee, a painful bulge will form.
Although Baker’s cysts are not always painful, the fluid-filled bulge behind the knee will be noticeable. Swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion are all common symptoms. Baker’s cysts can leak or burst, which causes pain and bruising.
Physicians will examine the area behind the knee to confirm the Baker’s cyst. Symptoms and medical history will also be assessed to determine the cause. X-rays cannot be used to identify the cyst, but can be used to detect arthritis in the knee.
Baker’s cysts typically go away on their own with rest, ice, and elevation. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be effective. In some cases, it may be necessary to drain the cyst. Physical therapy may be recommended to strengthen the knee, if mobility has been impacted.