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How to Treat and Prevent Ganglion Cysts

A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled bump that forms under the skin near a joint, most commonly in the wrist area, and sometimes in the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle, or foot regions.

The conventional medical view of ganglion cysts is that they are idiopathic, meaning that definitive causes are not known. Ganglion cysts are usually left alone, aspirated, or excised.

My experience has been that ganglion cysts - especially those that occur in the wrist area - tend to arise due to underlying joint dysfunction.

All of your joint surfaces are cushioned by a layer of tissue called synovial lining, as well as by liquid called synovial fluid.

If the joints in your wrist region are not moving properly and/or under constant strain, the synovial lining in this area can get irritated to a point where it begins to get squeezed out from between your wrist bones, creating a pouch-like appearance below the surface of your skin. Synovial fluid follows an outpouching as it develops, leading to a fluid-filled bump.

Many years ago, ganglion cysts were also called Bible bumps because the standard treatment for such bumps involved having one's doctor slam down on it with a heavy book, usually a Bible.

Smashing a ganglion cyst may cause it to break apart or shrink, but without addressing the root cause of a cyst, it will usually return over time; this is also true of cysts that are removed via aspiration or excision, though the recurrence rate for cysts that are properly excised is lower than that for those that are simply aspirated.

If you have a bump around one of your joints that resembles a ganglion cyst, the first step to take is to visit your physician to confirm that your bump is indeed a ganglion cyst. Sometimes, other conditions like lipomas, bone spurs, local infections, and in rare cases, even bone tumors, can present like ganglion cysts.

Once you and your physician are sure that you have a ganglion cyst, the next step to take is to think about ways in which the affected joint is being strained on a regular basis. If you can identify an everyday activity that could be irritating the affected area, look for a way to reduce or modify that activity. In the case of a ganglion cyst in the foot or ankle region, the cause might be poor choice in footwear (See: Shoes and Sandals for Healthy Feet).

If appropriate rest and/or addressing the aggravating activity doesn't lead to significant improvement, you may want to visit a chiropractor, physiotherapist, osteopath, naturopath, or other health care practitioner who has experience mobilizing joints.

Joint mobilization involves putting the bones that make up your joints through basic ranges of motion to help ensure smooth and full joint motion, which is critical to addressing and preventing ganglion cysts since restricted joints can be a primary cause of ganglion cyst formation.

For example, in your wrist region, you have eight small carpal bones that are neatly arranged in two rows. Each of these carpal bones should have a certain amount of give, called joint play. An experienced practitioner can put each of your carpal bones (and the bones that lie below and above your carpal bones) through various ranges of motion to help ensure that the synovial linings in this region aren't being irritated by your everyday activities.

A good practitioner can also provide guidance on how to do specific stretches and exercises with the affected area to help promote optimal joint motion and reduce the likelihood of having a ganglion cyst come back - the video at the top of this page demonstrates several such movements to help address recurrent wrist issues.

Sometimes, a ganglion cyst arises from a tendon sheath, though this scenario is less common than cysts that arise from within joints. In the case of a cyst that comes from a tendon sheath, it's still wise to follow the steps above i.e. visit your physician to confirm the diagnosis, and try to identify everyday activities that may be aggravating the tendon/muscle involved.

If the cause of a tendon sheath-derived ganglion cyst is a short, scarred, or injured tendon/muscle, I recommend seeking an evaluation and treatment from a practitioner who is familiar with Active Release Technique, also called ART.

ART involves applying manual pressure on tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues while the target tissues are put through their normal ranges of motion. Applying pressure to tissues while they are in motion can help promote optimal range of motion of the target area, as well as healthy soft tissues in the area through increased blood flow. But please have a look at the video above first, as you may be able to experience improvement on your own with the exercises that are demonstrated.

The bottom line on ganglion cysts is this: They're benign, and only present a problem if they restrict range of motion or cause discomfort during everyday activities. For some people, ganglion cysts create psychological and emotional burden, as they look unusual.

If there is significant joint restriction or discomfort, the best first step is to have an experienced practitioner ensure optimal health of the joints and soft tissues involved; if this doesn't lead to significant improvement, it's best to have an experienced surgeon excise the ganglion cyst, and then to continue with alternative treatments to ensure that the joints and soft tissues involved return to optimal health, which will reduce the likelihood of having the cyst return.


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I acquired a ganglion on my wrist from twirling a sawed-off broomstick that we used for teaching kids to jump over obstacles in horseback riding for an entire summer. I had the ganglion for 5 years and it was painful to bend my wrist for something like a push-up - I could not bear weight on it. I was working as an electrician's apprentice and spent hours on end screwing in light fixtures with that repetitive wrist motion. It was excruciating but I would not stop because I was a new woman on a construction job of 1200 men. Tears ran down my face, but within an hour, the pain was gone and never returned. I just guessed that I worked the fluid out with that motion little by little. I have not twirled any broomsticks since.

Thank You to the author for writing this article. It does shed some light on this very re-occuring painful problem of my 12 year old. Although, we cannot pin point any repetitive activity that has created it.
And thank you to Karen for offering a positive story about how your cyst finally went away. It offers hope that my daughter will recover from this pain at some point.

I have just been diagnosed with the ganglion cyst on my tendon in my wrist. It has been very bothersome and painful especially while practicing yoga. I will be having surgery to remove the cyst. I appreciate your suggestion of the ART. I will checking with my local chiropractors to see if they offer this service to prevent the cyst from returning.

Thank you too for this article. I discovered my ganglion cyst on my right wrist area about 3 years ago and my Dr basically left it up to me if I wanted to have it removed. It was a little painful, more painful during yoga but completely an eye sore. I decided them not to have it removed. I went back to my Dr recently because 3 years later it is still the same a little bothersome, more painful and not so pretty. I really don't want to get it cut out so I'm still trying to decide what I want to do. But this article really gave me some more insight. I will also ask my chiropractor about ART.

I just had a ganglion cyst removed from my wrist and yes it id painfull 9 weeks off work and physical therapy for 6 weeks but it is worth it no more cyst.

I have a ganglion cyst discovered three years ago but never looked at it until a couple weeks ago they confirm thanks you for the article the doctor did give me an option to remove it or just live with iti'm trying to live with it so that's why am doing research on it and I found Your article it's at my mind free now I know what I'm dealing with

I had one of these form within the last few months on the back of my hand right above the wrist. It felt like bone to the touch and looked strange to me. In the last week it was getting very irritating and everything aggravated it. Today (this is why I'm sharing) I was picking up a large crockpot and part of it was falling so I did my best to stop it from falling and breaking. Part of the pot landed directly on the cyst and I had to balance it there until I could put it down. It felt really strange and when I rubbed the bump I immediately realized it was gone! I unintentionally pulled the "Bible" move with a crockpot! It feels strange now and I'm having odd sensations in my wrist and fingers. I hope this goes away. I'm very happy it went away. I thought it pushed it back between the bones but after reading this I'm not 100% sure I didn't burst it under my skin. I hope it stays gone and I hope this helps somebody else. I was too scared to let someone hit it but what happened didn't actually hurt it just felt strange.

I did the same thing! I noticed one on my wrist, then one weekend playing volleyball it had disappeared. It did come back about three weeks later. That time, I was pushing around on it, and felt it burst in my hand..quite a disturbing feeling, but luckily it's never been painful. About a month or two later it did return though. I let it be for a few months, but it isn't very pretty and while whining to a friend about it, she asked if she could whap it with a book. I let her. It went away. Probably not the best ideas, but it's working for now. I'm a 33 yr old woman. And I'm not recommending these methods, but after talking to a dermatologist and having her confirm it was just a cyst, I felt the busting option was easier than having it surgically removed (for now anyway.)

I have had a few ganglion cyst . I went to my Dr.right away, not knowing what it is .It started on the arch of my foot, but was gone with in a week.
Another on my wrist bone etc. But mine only last a week.
Although One of them will not go away.
That one is on the top of my foot, about 1 1/2 inch below my right ankle bone.
I have had the fluid aspirated with a needle 3 times.
Two times the Dr. got fluid out. Then it got big, and I went to a Surgeon. She said she would aspirate it, but she wanted a MRI to make sure what it really was.
I had the MRI. She confirmed Ganglion cyst.
Went to her again she gave me shots of Novocain, But when she put the needle in, it was So hard it bend the Needle!! She tried a few more times, and got some fluid out.
The Dr. said she has never seen one like this before!.
A few days later it turned, Red, black and blue, but I still have it and it does not hurt me at all.

That all said, She said, Ganglion cyst sometimes do come back even after having them cut out.
My other option was to have it cut out. I said No.
Since this cyst does not bother me , I kinda of forgot about it, till I saw this article.

Does anyone have a Ganglion Cyst in the same place as I do , on there foot, and what did you do about it etc.?

I have had a ganglion cyst on my left middle toe for two years. ITs been injected several times with alcohol. It responded well and then came back. It really doesn't bother me, except for the fact that it is very obvious, black-red and ugly. Only ocassionally does it seem to become irritated and inflamed. One foot surgeon told me i would need a joint replacement. I thought that was a bit extreme. I will go for a 2nd opinion soon.

I first had a ganglion cyst on my wrist probably 3 or 4 years before having having surgery in 2003. After the surgery with it hurting for a long while with a big ugly scar it came back! I waited until it got bigger then in 2013 had it drained... now it's back again same place but seems to never goes away. I just scraped it the other day and it's had a little bit of skin coming off so I peeled the skin then put Neosporin on it with a Band-Aid for infection... and now it's draining on its own! If I had to give my opinion I would recommend no surgery they do come back! Draining it is much less intrusive and less painful!!