A Baker’s cyst occurs at the back of the knee. The cyst is as a result of excess joint fluid filing up a sack behind the knee. Two most common causes of this are arthritis and a cartilage tear. When the cyst is large enough it can cause pain and stiffness behind the knee as well as swelling behind the knee. Symptoms of pain are usually worse when getting up and standing and when straightening the knee. An MRI can be done to help determine the cause of the cyst. Sometimes the cysts can be drained but the underlying cause of the problem may cause it to come back. In other instances, the cyst itself can go away.
What is a Baker’s Cyst according to Traditional Chinese medicine TCM ?
Cysts generally are classified as being due to accumulation of damp and phlegm often accompanied with blood stasis. The spleen meridian on the inside of the lower leg is often sensitive to palpation and pressure and spleen is often involved in fluid problems, such as build up of fluid in a Baker’s Cyst. The website YinYang House provides a few examples of herbal formula that are used for cysts. Chinese medicine also says that the ligaments and tendons are controlled by the liver and the bones controlled by the kidneys. The obvious underlying cause of Baker’s cysts are due to weakness and deficiency of the liver and kidney energy. If the sinews and bones are not being nourished by the liver and the kidneys then arthritis has a predisposition to develop or the area is vulnerable to injury such as a meniscus tear.
How does the blood circulation affect the treatment of Baker’s Cyst according to TCM?
Any injury or degenerative state of the normal tissue such as in arthritis becomes further complicated by inhibited blood circulation in the local area. There is an ancient Chinese medicine saying “Everything is caused by blood stagnation or blood stagnation complicates all existing conditions“. Hence in the treatment of Baker’s Cysts, acupuncture points that improve blood circulation are also selected.
Do you use any local treatment on the cyst itself?
In modern hospitals of China we use a technique known as Fire Needle but I prefer to use a more subtle and gentle approach known as direct moxibustion. I have consulted with Alan Jansson, a well known traditional acupuncturist practising Australia’s Gold Coast. Alan says “The use of direct cone moxa, chinetsu, is simple, quick and effective. In addition to doing local treatment, getting to the root of the problem is imperative. If for example, the kidneys are weak, I use Kidney 3 taixi. I also always use the important shu points on the back, in particular the spleen and Triple energizer points to move the fluid of the cyst“.
It seems that here in New Zealand surgeons here are quick to operate on Baker’s Cysts but in China acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine and the use of external herbal poultices is always used first and only in severe, stubborn and chronic cases do they resort to surgery.
Baker’s cyst as a result of an injury from a meniscal tear will likely be covered by ACC in New Zealand.