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Popliteal cyst

Baker’s cyst or popliteal cyst is sac filled with fluid found behind the knee that causes tightness and immobility of the knee or pain that becomes worse when moving the leg while engaging in physical activities. The accumulation of synovial fluid which lubricates the joint of the knee can cause swelling and formation of a cyst at the rear part of the knee when pressure is placed.

Symptoms of a popliteal cyst

  • Knee pain
  • Stiffness and inability in fully flexing the knee
  • Swelling behind the knee and sometimes in the leg
  • The symptoms becomes worse after performing strenuous activities or if standing for long periods of time.
  • Sometimes, the pocket of fluid found at the rear region of the knee can open and drain into the tissues in the lower leg and result to reddening and swelling of the leg.


  • The cyst can be caused by accumulation of fluid in an area found at the back part of the knee called popliteal bursa.
  • Inflammation of the joint of the knee such as arthritis
  • Cartilage tear on the knee
    Popliteal cyst

    Stiffness and inability in fully flexing the knee


  • Take plenty of rest especially the affected knee at least 1-2 days.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected knee especially around the cyst immediately after the injury. Cold therapy helps lessen the inflammation, pain and swelling around the affected area. The application should last for at least 15-20 minutes at a time. Allow the area to warm at room temperature and then reapply again for another 15-20 minutes. Take note that this helps lessen the pain and swelling on the initial 1-2 days after the injury. Wrap a bag of ice or frozen bag of vegetables such as peas with a towel and apply it on the affected area. Avoid applying the ice pack directly on the skin to prevent frostbite.
  • Use a compress that helps in minimizing the swelling of the injured area as well as help stabilize the knee. Tie an elastic bandage such as an Ace wrap, brace or a piece of cloth around the affected knee. Do not secure too tightly since it might be cutting off the proper circulation of blood in the area.
  • Elevate the leg to lessen the swelling and promote the return of blood to the heart. When lying down, raise the leg above the level of the heart as high as possible without triggering pain. If not capable of raising the injured leg, keep it parallel to the ground. When sleeping, keep the legs elevated by placing couple of pillows under the legs.
  • Use a crutch, cane and a walker or some devices to help while moving around.
  • Take the prescribed over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen and aspirin to help lessen the swelling and pain. Do not give aspirin to children and adolescents under 19 years old.
  • Seek the help of a physical therapist for guidance on exercises for flexibility and strengthening as well as rehabilitation of the joints and muscles to become active and also help prevent future weakness and stiffening of the joints and muscles.

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