Baker's Cyst: Care Instructions

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Side view of a knee with a Baker's cyst and a normal knee joint


A Baker's cyst is a swelling behind the knee. It may cause pain or stiffness when you bend your knee or straighten it all the way. Baker's cysts are also called popliteal cysts.

If you have arthritis or another condition that is the cause of the Baker's cyst, your doctor may treat that condition. This may relieve the pain and swelling.

A Baker's cyst may go away on its own. If not, or if it is causing a lot of discomfort, your doctor may give you a shot of steroid medicine to reduce swelling. In some cases, fluid is drained with a needle or the Baker's cyst is removed in surgery.

There are things you can do at home to reduce the swelling and pain, such as staying off your leg.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest your knee as much as possible.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Use a cane, a crutch, a walker, or another device if you need help to get around. These can help rest your knees.
  • If you have an elastic bandage, make sure it is snug but not so tight that your leg is numb, tingles, or swells below the bandage. Loosen the bandage if it is too tight.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight puts extra strain on your knee.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse pain.
  • Your foot is cool or pale or changes color.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your foot or toes.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • New or worse redness or swelling in your leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.