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Baker’s cysts have nothing to do with baking, who knew?

March 26, 2011

Over the past few weeks, I have had increasing pain in my right leg just behind my knee. Leg pain is nothing particularly new for me.  Depending on the speed that I walk, I have experienced shin pain, hip pain, and knee pain.

Things that I found that help mitigate the pain are correctly fitted sneakers, not striding too long, and stretching before and after walking longer distances.

Last week, after finishing a 7.5 mile training walk, I noticed that the area behind my knee was rather swollen. Over the week, it wasn’t improving much with applied heat and elevation of the leg.  I went to the doctor on Friday.   She took one look at my leg and diagnosed: Baker’s Cyst.

This is the first time I had heard this term.  It has nothing to do with bakers, but rather it was named after the surgeon who first described it, William Morrant Baker (1838–1896).[1] Baker’s cyst are also know as popliteal cyst because of the location.   The swelling is due to an increase in synovial fluid – the fluid that lubricates the knee joint. When pressure builds up, fluid bulges into the back of the knee. This is not a “true” cyst, as an open communication with the synovial sac is often maintained.  The cyst may feel like a water-filled balloon.  Sometimes, the cyst may break open (rupture), causing pain, swelling, and bruising on the back of the knee and calf.

Often no treatment is needed. The health care provider can watch the cyst over time.  Heat, elevation of the knee, pain medication, and bracing may help the symptoms associated with the cyst.   In my case, it is most likely due to osteoarthritis in my knees.  Looks like I will need to cut back on long walks for the time being. I getting old.

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