Acupuncture for a Baker's Cyst

A baker's cyst, also called a popliteal cyst, occurs when synovial (joint) fluid forms behind the knee and creates a visible swelling. You can develop a baker's cyst because of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, a meniscal cartilage tear or other damage to the knee. Most cysts involving synovial fluid buildup cause some stiffness and discomfort but does not become painful unless it breaks open. A ruptured Baker's cyst is recognized by bruising and more intense pain behind the knee, but does not require the attention of a physician. While eliminating a popliteal cyst involves rest and wearing a compression wrap or other knee support, acupuncture offers an alternative method to heal the discomfort of a Baker's cyst.

Someone is receiving acupuncture for their knee. (Image: Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images)


"Acupuncture is a technique of inserting fine needles into specific points on the body that are usually rotated by hand ... in order to correct the flow of energy in accordance with traditional Chinese medicine," according to Western medical researchers suggests that the insertion of these needles into areas of the body might stimulate nerve endings, resulting in neurotransmitter release within the brain. Neurotransmitters are responsible for many systemic imbalances, disruptions and deficiencies in the body that concern physical and psychological conditions controlling the health of a person.

Acupuncture to Relieve Knee Pain

Literature regarding the use of acupuncture for Baker's cysts is slim. However, the use of acupuncture in relieving knee pain because of arthritis, which frequently causes Baker's cysts, is extensive. According to an article published in the July 2006 edition of "Annals of Internal Medicine," "... despite the popularity of acupuncture, evidence of its efficacy for reducing pain remains equivocal," meaning the ability of acupuncture to be considered an empirical form of medical treatment is problematic and should continue to be thought of as pseudoscience until undisputed evidence of its healing capability exists.

Clinical Study

The clinical study described in the above mentioned in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" article investigated two groups of individuals experiencing knee pain. One group was treated with real acupuncture and one was treated with "sham" acupuncture. According to this study, "No statistically significant difference was observed between traditional Chinese acupuncture and sham acupuncture, suggesting that any observed differences could be due to placebo effects, differences in intensity of provider contact, or a physiologic effect of needling regardless of whether it is done according to TCA (traditional Chinese acupuncture) principles."

Choosing Acupuncture

Because Baker's cysts do not represent a severe condition and generally disappear on their own with proper care, choosing acupuncture for pain relief would not worsen the condition. In fact, it might help some people because many investigations into the efficacy of acupuncture have found benefits for people who suffered from chronic pain or other medical conditions. However, much of the evidence remains largely anecdotal and has yet to be scientifically substantiated.

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