Our knees handle a lot of stress when we move, and to help with this process, our joints self-lubricate with a liquid called synovial fluid. This fluid ensures the joint can move smoothly with less friction, but if problems develop with how this fluid accumulates in the joint, you may notice the formation of a fluid-filled sac called a cyst. When this develops behind the knee joint, it’s known as a Baker’s cyst. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at Baker’s cysts and how physical therapy can help relieve their discomfort.
What Is A Baker’s Cyst
A Baker’s cyst, also sometimes referred to as a popliteal cyst, is an abnormal accumulation of fluid that develops behind the knee joint. This synovial fluid is created by the synovium and coats the tendons to aid in movement, but if the knee is injured or subjected to chronic stress, the synovium can produce extra fluid. This fluid can then build up and lead to cyst formation on the back of the knee.
Two common injuries that can increase your risk of Baker’s cyst formation are trauma to the meniscus, where two pieces of cartilage that help to cushion the leg bones meet, and to the ligaments in the knee, which help to connect bones to other bones. Baker’s cysts can also form as a result of chronic conditions that affect the joints, like arthritis or gout. Symptoms of a Baker’s cyst include a visible lump or swelling behind the knee, but they are also categorized by knee stiffness, difficulty flexing the knee, and localized pain.
Treating Baker’s Cysts With Physical Therapy
If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, it would be beneficial to connect with a healthcare professional or a physical therapy clinic, as they could also be a sign of a blood clot or tumor. Your physical therapist will take a look at your knee, have you perform some movement exercises and ask what type of actions cause symptoms to develop or alleviate. Once they’ve determined that a Baker’s cysts is the issue, they’ll walk you through some treatment options.
Conservative care is the most common form of treatment for Baker’s cysts. Rest, ice, compression and elevation are all helpful, but physical therapy tends to help speed up recovery by improving joint function and helping excess fluid drain out of the area. Because movement with a Baker’s cyst is uncomfortable, most people shy away from movement, but a controlled physical therapy program is actually much more helpful at relieving symptoms. Your treatment will depend on your individual cyst, but the most common PT exercises for Baker’s cysts include:
- Range of motion exercises to increase flexibility in the joint.
- Hamstring and quadriceps strengthening exercises to take stress off the knee joint.
- Calf stretching exercises, as muscle tightness can contribute to Baker’s cyst formation.
- Walking to promote healthy fluid movement throughout the body.
So if you’re being bothered by fluid accumulation behind the knee, or it’s causing you to shy away from activities you love, reach out to the experienced team at OrthoRehab Specialists. We’ll help pinpoint the root cause of the excess fluid and develop an individualized treatment plan to help you get back to normal joint motion. For more information, or for help with any physical ailment, reach out to our team today.
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