Baker’s (popliteal) cyst: Treatments, symptoms, and causes

A Baker’s cyst (or Baker cyst), also known as a popliteal cyst, is a swelling in the popliteal space, the space behind the knee. It causes stiffness and knee pain.

The pain caused by the cyst typically worsens if the patient fully flexes or extends the knee, or moves around.

The condition, which has nothing to do with baking, is named after the British surgeon who first described it, Dr. William Morrant Baker (1838-1896).

Fast facts on Baker’s cysts

Here are some key points about Baker’s cysts:

A Baker’s cyst is a swelling in the space behind the knee.

Baker’s cysts most commonly affect women over the age of 40.

Symptoms of a Baker’s cyst include joint locking, knee, and calf pain.

Baker’s cyst often resolves without medication.

What is a Baker’s cyst

[Man holding his knee in pain]
Most people with Baker’s cysts have an underlying illness.

A Baker’s, or popliteal, cyst is a painful swelling that develops behind the knee. It is filled with fluid.

It happens when inflammation and swelling affects the tissue behind the knee joint. It often results from gout or arthritis.

Symptoms include pain and stiffness as well as popping, clicking, creaking, or locking in the knee joint.


A Baker’s cyst will commonly resolve on its own, and no treatment is required.

Home remedies

Some self-care techniques may be effective, such as:

Icepacks: This can be useful in reducing inflammation. Make sure there is no direct contact with ice on skin.

Resting: The knee needs to rest; it must not be exposed to irritation. A doctor may advise how long the patient should rest, as well as suggesting alternative forms of exercise.

Crutches: These take the weight off the knee joint and help the patient walk without pain.

Compression bandages: These help support the knee. Compression bandages are available for purchase online.


NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – medications with analgesic (pain-reducing) and antipyretic (fever-reducing) effects can be useful in treating Baker’s cysts.

Ibuprofen, a common over the counter medication, is an NSAID.

Further treatment

In most cases, if there is an underlying cause, the doctor will treat the cause rather than the cyst itself. If the swelling is particularly large and painful, further treatment may be required:

Corticosteroid injection: This reduces inflammation and relieves pain, but it does not reduce the risk of recurrence.

Physical therapy: A qualified physical therapist may recommend some gentle strengthening and range-of-motion exercise for the knee muscles. These exercises can help reduce symptoms as well as maintaining the function of the knee.

Arthroscopy: Extensive knee joint damage, possibly due to a physical injury or some underlying condition, may mean that the cyst must be surgically removed and the joint repaired. The surgeon inspects and treats problems inside a joint using an arthroscope, a thin, flexible fiber-optic tube which is inserted into the joint through a small incision.

Baker’s cysts affect more women than men, probably because women develop rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis more often.

Although people of any age may be affected, most patients are over 40 years.

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Some patients may have no pain and may not even notice the cyst is there. However, the signs and symptoms of a Baker’s cyst can include:

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