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Knee Bone or Joint Injury

Baker’s Cyst Frequently Asked Questions

Minute Read


Posted 9 months ago


Last updated: 13/05/2023


by James McCormack

Why is it Called a Baker’s Cyst?

This condition is not linked to the baking profession, but it was in the late 1800s that the surgeon, Dr. William Morrant Baker, first describe this condition and that is how it gained its name. Nowadays, it is also known as a popliteal cyst after its location or a synovial cyst due to the anatomy.

The popliteal fossa is a diamond shape space at the back of the knee, made by the muscles that attach above and below the back of the knee, many structures pass through this space including nerves and blood vessels. The synovium is the connective tissue that lines the inside of joints such as the knee. With a Baker’s cyst, this connective tissue gets stretched and forms a bulge at the back of the knee.

Can a Baker’s Cyst Cause a Blood Clot?

A Baker’s cyst presents with similar signs and symptoms as a blood clot of the leg, known as a deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Both will cause heat, redness, swelling and a tight feeling at the back of the knee or calf, and have pain when walking or standing.

A Baker’s cyst may be mistaken for a DVT and vice versa; the close link between these two conditions has been widely known for a long time. In 36% of patients with a DVT, a Baker’s cyst was also present, and 31% of patients with a Baker’s cyst, a DVT was also present (Simpson et al, 1980).

A Baker’s cyst can also increase the risk of a DVT, as the swelling at the back of the knee can compress the deep popliteal vein and increase the chance of developing a clot.

A careful and thorough assessment is needed when these symptoms arise to ensure a correct diagnosis is given and the correct treatment is provided. A missed DVT is potentially life-threatening as the clot can move and cause serious illnesses such as pulmonary embolism.

How to Sleep with Baker’s Cyst?

Finding a comfortable position to sleep in can be difficult with a Baker’s cyst. Swelling at the back of the knee can compress the nerves and blood vessels at the back of the knee, and if these become compressed due to certain sleeping positions then it can become hard to sleep or wake you from your sleep.


In our experience, the best sleeping positions for a Baker’s Cyst are lying on your side with a pillow between your knees or lying on your back with cushioning behind the thigh and calf with a space behind the knee, to avoid any direct pressure.


Sleeping positions to avoid with a Baker’s Cyst are sleeping on your back with a pillow directly behind your knee or lying on your front with your knee fully extended. The direct pressure of a pillow behind the knee can cause compression and discomfort while lying on your front leading to tendon compression over the Baker’s cyst that can be uncomfortable when left in this position overnight.

Should I Run with a Baker’s Cyst?

A Baker’s cyst is caused by damage and irritation in the knee joint. Some exercises will further irritate the knee joint and enlarge the cyst, making it more painful and the knee joint flexion further restricted. However, this is more common with exercises that involve repeated knee flexion, such as squatting.

If you run and monitor your response to it, and if there is no greater swelling or pain afterwards, you should be able to continue running. Remember that speed, terrain, shoes and distance changes can aggravate the Baker’s cyst, so make small and gradual changes, if any.

Can I Ride my Bike with a Baker’s Cyst?

Cycling is a good exercise that rarely irritates a Baker’s cyst, so it is a good option to keep active. However, if your bike set up or fit is poor, it can aggravate your symptoms. A low saddle will increase the angle of knee flexion, and clip in shoes with a poorly set angle, may both irritate and enlarge the cyst.

Can a Baker’s Cyst Cause Foot Numbness?

A Baker’s cyst can lead to foot numbness. This happens when the cyst’s swelling compresses nerves at the back of the knee. Nerve compression affects blood circulation, initially causing numbness. Prolonged compression can even cause muscle weakness.

It can feel like when your foot “falls asleep” if you sit on it. The nerves affected include the tibial, common fibular, sural, and posterior femoral cutaneous nerves. These nerves control sensation and muscle power in the foot and lower leg.

Baker's Cyst Foods to Avoid

Some food types, such as saturated fats and sodium, increase inflammatory levels in the body. Other foods such as fibre, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are linked with reduced levels of inflammation (Hess et al, 2021).

Keeping a healthy, varied and balanced diet is the best way to maintain a healthy body, and that will help recovery from injuries such as a Baker’s cyst.

Vitamins for Baker's Cyst

While a health, balanced diet is good to promote injury recovery and healing, there is limited evidence to suggest any specific vitamins or diet supplementation to help with the recovery of a Baker’s cyst.

There has been suggestion that vitamin D can help reduce joint effusion with conditions of osteoarthritis. However, there has been no evidence that synovitis, such as Baker’s cyst, is affected by this supplementation (Perry et al, 2019).

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments weekly.

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