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How To Treat Baker’s Cyst With Acupuncture and TCM


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.


knee pain Baker's cyst
Baker’s cyst may cause pain and swelling in the knee joint.

Swelling behind knee, lump behind knee, pain and swelling behind knee, knee stiffness? These can be Baker’s cyst symptoms. A Baker’s cyst in knee joint occurs when swelling in the knee forms a fluid-filled sac. Acupuncture treatment can help relieve Bakers cyst knee symptoms like knee pain and stiffness.

A Baker cyst, also known as a popliteal cyst, or synovial cyst, is a fluid-filled growth that develops in the back of the knee joint. In some cases, a Baker’s cyst causes knee pain, stiffness, and swelling; in other cases, there may be no Baker’s cyst signs and symptoms at all.

What causes Baker’s cyst? Usually, it is due to a knee injury, such as a cartilage tear, or arthritis in the knee joint. These types of problems cause inflammation in the knee, which can lead to the production of more synovial fluid than usual.

Synovial fluid is a thick, clear substance, similar to egg whites in consistency, that is present in the joints of the body to help lubricate their movements. It is produced by the synovium, a sort of bubble that surrounds joints like the knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips. 

When the synovium becomes swollen and inflamed, due to injury or overuse of the joint, it may produce excess synovial fluid. In the case of a Baker’s cyst, the synovial fluid can build up in the knee joint, and form a bump, lump, or growth in the back of the knee.

People who have a history of knee injury, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis may be more prone to developing Baker’s cysts.

Bakers cyst treatment is usually only indicated if a person is experiencing significant pain or limitation of movement. Acupuncture treatment can provide an adjunct or alternative Baker’s cyst therapy to help promote healing and relieve Baker’s knee symptoms.


Top 5 Baker’s Cyst Symptoms


baker's cyst knee
Repetitive movements or sports injuries can sometimes lead to Baker’s cyst later on.
Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash

Many people have a baker’s cyst knee without realizing it. If there is no pain, a person may not notice the lump behind knee. 


Baker’s cyst signs and symptoms include:


  1. Knee pain, pain in the back of the knee
  2. Knee stiffness, stiff knee joint, especially when straightening the leg
  3. Swollen knee, swelling in knee joint
  4. Swelling goes away when knee is bent
  5. Pain and stiffness are worse after standing for a long time


More severe baker’s cyst symptoms could include redness and swelling, as the cyst gets larger. 

In some cases, a baker’s cyst can rupture. If this happens, there may be swelling, redness, and a warm sensation in the calf area. Rupture of a baker’s cyst could cause pain or numbness in the calf, lack of blood flow to the lower leg, as the ruptured cyst could trap a nerve or artery in the knee or lower leg.

In extreme cases, a ruptured Baker’s cyst could lead to compartment syndrome, which could cause intense pain, foot drop, edema in the lower leg, and possibly, even an inability to move the foot or toes. If you believe your Baker’s cyst has ruptured, you should seek emergency care.

While, in most cases, a Baker’s cyst will eventually go on on its own, it is best to get a diagnosis and discuss your options. Acupuncture and TCM offer treatment of Baker’s cysts that is non-invasive and can help improve healing and prevent regrowth of the cyst.


Baker’s Cyst Treatment


Baker’s cyst signs and symptoms can be similar to those of a blood clot, or even a tumor. So, while a doctor can often diagnose a Baker’s cyst simply by palpating the area, they may also order imaging tests to be sure.

In many cases, doctors will prescribe over the counter pain medications and allow time for the cyst to go away on its own. You may be advised to limit activities that might aggravate the knee inflammation. Resting and elevating the knee for a few weeks might be recommended.

In some cases, a doctor may give cortisone injections to reduce knee swelling, or perform needle aspiration to drain the fluid from the cyst.

Surgery is generally only suggested in situations in which the knee pain has become chronic and inflammation does not seem to be going away.

Unfortunately, these medical treatments for Baker’s cyst may help bring relief, but it is quite common for the Baker’s cyst to come back again. Acupuncture treatment is not only a good way to bring symptomatic relief, but can help prevent the recurrence of Baker’s cysts.

Acupuncture has long been considered an excellent modality for treating knee pain due to all types of conditions. TCM offers an adjunct  or alternative treatment for knee pain, without side effects that can come with pain medications or steroids.


Can Acupuncture Help Baker’s Cyst?


acupuncture for Baker's cyst knee
Acupuncture treatment for knee pain and swelling.

Acupuncture and TCM treatments with Chinese herb formulas have been used for centuries to treat knee injuries of all kinds. 

According to TCM theory, arthritis in the knee that causes pain and stiffness is caused by stagnation that blocks the smooth flow of blood and Qi (life force energy). Acupuncture and herbs are used to address the underlying causes of blockages.

Injuries like a torn meniscus in the knee, or damage to the cartilage of the knee are very common, and it is also common for a person who has suffered such an injury to develop a Baker’s cyst later on. Full healing of cartilage can be helped with specific herbs that bring more nutrients to the damaged tissues.

Once a pattern of inflammation has begun, it can be difficult to get the swelling to go away. Small movements can trigger the inflammatory response if the area is not fully healed, and if other lifestyle habits are also causing a person to be prone to inflammation.

Chinese medicine looks at the situation holistically, treating the situation with acupuncture treatment, cupping, herbs, and nutrition, so that overall inflammation is reduced, and swelling and pressure is reduced, as well.

Herbal patches that are applied topically may be used in addition to herbal teas taken internally, to help relieve knee pain and swelling.

Cupping can also be helpful for healing and prevention of Baker’s cysts. One study compared patients with a popliteal cysts who were treated with acupuncture and cupping to patients who were given injections of prednisone. Both groups had high rates of effectiveness in terms of relief from the cysts, but recurrence of Baker’s cyst was significantly lower in the group that received TCM treatment as opposed to steroids.

Acupuncture Near Me for Baker’s Cyst, Los Angeles, CA


If you or someone you know has been suffering from knee pain and stiffness, due to a knee injury, arthritis, or diagnosed with Baker’s cysts on knee, it is worth seeking help from an acupuncturist experienced in working with orthopedic injuries, like Dr. Tan at Art of Wellness in West Los Angeles. TCM treatment for Baker’s cyst and other problems with the knee joint can not only help to relieve pain and increase range of movement; it can help prevent knee pain from coming back in the future. 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.




How to Treat Morton’s Neuroma With Acupuncture and TCM


By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Morton's neuroma ball of foot pain toe pain
Ball of foot pain and tingling can be a sign of Morton’s Neuroma.

Do you feel like there is a pebble in your shoe all the time? Burning, tingling ball of foot pain? Tenderness between the 3rd and 4th toes? These could be symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma, a condition in which inflammation and swelling around a nerve in the ball of the foot causes toe pain and numbness. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help relieve Morton’s Neuroma foot pain.

Morton’s Neuroma is a problem related to swelling and thickening of tissue around a nerve in the foot. This nerve runs under the ligaments that connect the toe bones to the bones of the foot. A neuroma is considered to be a kind of benign tumor or growth and is usually not large enough to feel as an actual lump on the bottom of the foot.

Pain in the forefoot, or ball of foot pain, can be a sign of Morton’s Neuroma, or it could be a symptom of one of several other conditions, including: 

  • Metatarsalgia – a general term for pain and inflammation in the ball of foot, around the metatarsals. Pain symptoms can be similar to those of Morton’s Neuroma
  • Capsulitis – irritation of the capsular ligaments in the foot can cause pain in the ball of the foot that comes and goes
  • Gout – a type of arthritis in the foot or toes, caused by a buildup of uric acid
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – an autoimmune condition that causes arthritic pain that usually begins in the extremities
  • Bunion pain – a bony bump that develops on the outside of the big toe joint
  • Edema – swelling caused by fluid trapped in the tissues of the foot
  • Arthritis – a general term for joint pain, which can affect the toes and feet
  • Fractured bones in foot
  • Bursitis – bursas are small sacs that act as cushioning for joints; there are bursae around the metatarsals that can become inflamed, causing ball of foot pain
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – a condition where the tibial nerve is compressed in the tarsal tunnel area of the ankle, causing pain and tingling in the foot
  • Radiculopathy – compression of a nerve in the lower back can cause pain in the foot, similar to sciatica
  • Hammertoe – when one of the toes becomes bent, usually due to pinching shoes, and the muscles and ligaments can’t straighten it, causing swelling and pain
  • Diabetes – foot pain and numbness (diabetic neuropathy) can happen due to diabetes.

It is possible for a person to have one of the conditions listed above, and also have a Morton’s Neuroma; sometimes another foot problem can contribute to the development of a neuroma.

Morton’s Neuroma Symptoms

The signs of a Morton’s Neuroma include:

  1. Ball of foot pain, especially when you put weight on in
  2. Toe pain or pain between the toes
  3. Numbness or tingling in the ball of the foot, “pins and needles” sensation
  4. Swelling between toes or in the ball of the foot
  5. Pain is better with rest, staying off of your foot

People often describe the sensation as feeling like there’s a pebble in your shoe or a wrinkle in your sock that is irritating, particularly in the area between the third and fourth toes. 

Typically, the symptoms of neuroma begin to be noticeable when you are either engaging in an activity that aggravates the nerve, like running or playing a high-impact sport like tennis, or wearing shoes that force the ball of your foot to take extra impact. The pain and tingling may get better when you finish, take off your shoes, and rub your foot. 

Over time, though, as the neuroma gets bigger, the pain may get worse and more persistent. If Morton’s Neuroma is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the nerve.

What Causes Morton’s Neuroma?

Morton's Neuroma ball of boot pain
Wearing shoes with very high heels or a tight toe box can sometimes lead to Morton’s Neuroma foot pain.

Morton’s Neuroma occurs due to compression of the nerve in the foot that carries sensory signals from the toes. Some people may be more prone to developing Morton’s Neuroma due to the shape of their foot, such as having an unusually high arch, or a very flat foot. 

The way that the foot hits the ground and leaves the ground while walking or running can cause a lot of impact and stress to the ball of the foot. An injury to the foot or toes, or other type of trauma, can trigger this nerve condition, as can repetitive stress from a particular sport or other activity. Wearing high heels, flip-flops, or shoes that pinch the toes together can be a factor. 

Morton’s Neuroma Treatment

A foot specialist, or podiatrist, will diagnose Morton’s Neuroma by feeling the ball of the foot to see if there is a noticeable mass and to sense what the pain and tingling symptoms are like for the patient. An ultrasound or MRI can show a soft tissue mass like a neuroma, and may be used to confirm the diagnosis. 

Usually the first recommendations for a person with Morton’s Neuroma will be to change their footwear: choosing roomier shoes and softer, padded socks, etc. Orthotic supports may be prescribed.

Steroid injections may be used to relieve pain and swelling. If these measures do not help, surgery for Morton’s Neuroma can either be to cut ligaments and other nearby tissues to try to relieve pressure, or in some cases, the affected nerve itself may be removed (neurectomy). This can relieve pain; it can also reduce sensation in the foot permanently. There is also a chance with some surgeries that the neuroma may simply grow again.

Neuromas do not generally go away on their own. The most conservative treatment options for Morton’s Neuroma—like rest, icing, and different shoes—may or may not help to relieve the pain and tingling. Fortunately, acupuncture treatment is an excellent way to help relieve nerve pain.

Can Acupuncture Help Morton’s Neuroma Foot Pain?

acupuncture points for Morton's neuroma foot pain
Acupuncture treatment for Morton’s Neuroma can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Inflammation and compression around nerves can cause nerve pain in many different parts of the body. For example, pinched or compressed nerves in the spine, or a herniated disc, can cause sciatica or piriformis syndrome: hip pain or pain that radiates down the leg. Compression of the plantar nerve can cause heel pain. A pinched nerve in the neck can cause shoulder pain and/or neck pain. Impingement of the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. An inflamed trigeminal nerve causes pain in the face. With acupuncture, we are able to provide treatments that can help relieve all of these types of nerve pain.

Acupuncture and other Chinese medicine modalities can help to reduce inflammation that presses on nerves, release scar tissue, and help to heal nerves and the irritated soft tissues surrounding them, like ligaments and muscles. Acupuncture also acts as an analgesic, reducing pain and increasing endorphins.

Evidence suggests that the stimulation of acupuncture points encourages the pituitary gland to release more cortisol, which plays an important role in reducing inflammation. It has been hypothesized that acupuncture influences the release of neuropeptides from nerve endings, which is also a key part of the inflammatory response.

According to TCM theory, this type of pain is often considered to arise due to “Bi Syndrome” conditions, in which stagnation of Qi and blood causes stiffness. The blockage of energy usually occurs due to pathogenic forces of “wind,” “cold,” or “dampness,” or some combination of these factors. Thus, the acupuncture practitioner will choose from a variety of methods including acupuncture, herbal supplements, moxibustion, and Tuina massage to clear obstructions that lead to pain and numbness, such as with Morton’s Neuroma.

Acupuncture Near Me for Morton’s Neuroma, Los Angeles Area

There are many different conditions that can cause foot pain and toe pain. It is important to seek care for foot problems promptly, so that they do not become worse. Acupuncture and other TCM treatments can help improve and maintain foot health for everyone, and can help manage and relieve many types of injury or disorders that affect the feet. At Art of Wellness near Santa Monica, we have 30 years of experience helping people stay active and on their toes.

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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