share this story

Baker's Cysts - the D'oh rises

I fly out to Lavaredo 3 weeks yesterday - so close now it could easily be 2 weeks yesterday - for probaby the hardest race of my 'career' to date.

The 100-miler may pip it but I'm not at all sure about that.

I've been trying to fit some sort of training in around managing these Baker's cysts because some training seems kind of essential but it's been slow progress. Having had the ultrasound scan the return visit to the GP lacked much sense of purpose or direction. They're too small to stick a needle in and pop so the advice was the usual - Ibuprofen and (I sensed this was offered up in that apologetic, fear-of-a-torrent-of-derision way you admit your favourite record is Stay by East17) 'bed rest'!

I dropped the North Downs Way 50. Very reluctantly, especially as the first aid stop is only 6.8 miles in. But had I made it a lot worse and only managed 20 miles or so that would have been catastrophic and for no training benefit.

Instead I took 2 weeks off doing nothing more than short walks and things have certainly improved. 5 runs last week and though the mileage is pitiful it's good to be moving again.

There's a section in a Richard Dawkins book (can't remember which - the God Delusion?) about superstition and how it's not just us afflicted. He describes an experiment with a pigeon in a box and a lever on the wall that rewards said pigeon with grain every time it's pecked at. Pretty soon the bird gets the connection and is pecking away like it's trying to get a tune out of it.

Then here's the clever/cruel bit.. the mad, white coated scientist turns off the link and instead a push on the level may or may not reward with grain randomly. It's not long before the creature is trying to figure out the new pattern - standing in a particular corner first, standing on one leg then pecking etc.

It's fascinating but I'm very conscious I'm doing it myself. Running on these things doesn't necessarily make them worse; resting doesn't necessarily make them better. So like the old boys in this Larson cartoon, you start thinking 'is it diet?', 'is it the weather?'. And the ashen-faced horror scenario to be uttered only in whispers.. 'is it the beer?'

I've lost count of how many times I've been told that these cysts aren't painful.  That's probably true but they do cause other things to get bent out of shape and that hurts.  At the moment it's a consistent and vague sense of thickness around the knee and a vertical band of tightness around the popliteal tendon when standing up and fully extending the leg.

As it stands I'm going for Lavaredo and hoping for continued improvement in what time's left.

I guess my biggest fear is that as the race starts in the pitch dark at 11pm, there's a good 5-6 hours of running to get through before you can clap your eyes on the scenery. I would hate to not make it that far!

The plan is to try a 15-20 miler at the back end of this week without pushing through any significant discomfort which will give me some confidence that this isn't a completely insane prospect. Of course it is actually a completely insane prospect, we all know that - it's 75 miles of mountain, but it will give me some confidence that it isn't.
post your comment
hi Andrew - Just stumbled across your blog via google in my attempts to rid myself of a Bakers Cyst. I've had it for 6 months now, with no running and it is driving me mad.

All of the physios just shrug and say "it'll go". It hasn't. I have a cyst but the MRI diagnosed no other knee injury.

I've had massage, acupuncture (which hurt like hell...but at the time the diagnosis was a mild calf tear). I've tried rest, ice, exercise, stretching, NSAIDS. to no avail.

Please tell me you found a magic cure?

I started having symptoms couple of months back, backed off quite a bit on running and now trying to get back. Bham ..its back. Curious to know how yours got resolved..
Hi Chitra, you too, eh?

I lost much of the year to this.. at least in terms of racing. They did gradually fade and I could run longer without pain as time went on. They, like the PF that has blighted this year!, are a mystery. I don't really know what caused them, especially the second knee.

My feeling is that you can't do much other than let them fade of their own accord. As they are fluid trapped behind the joint I can't see that icing, NSAIDs etc are going to do much - but I'm no doctor! Mine were too small to be worth aspirating. I would have probably gone for that otherwise though there's a risk they'll return apparently.

It's probably some meniscus damage that causes these things - have you had any symptoms of that? - so I guess make sure your shoes haven't had it and avoid over stressing the joint.

I hope you're back out there soon!

Hi Justin,

sorry to hear you're suffering with this! On the positive side they no longer bother me (I've moved on to Plantar Fasciitis now!) though I am occasionally aware of them and I've no doubt yours will fade too.

Mine were pretty small - they showed up on ultrasound but were not huge as these things go and they decided it wasn't worth sticking a needle in them to clear the fluid as a result.

They did settle down over time.. I guess about 9 months or so. I'm not sure there's much else you can do. They're caused by fluid being trapped behind the knee joint so I doubt whether ice or stretching is going to change that. Your body will eventually reabsorb that fluid.

I didn't stop running entirely and you will hopefully find you can do more over time.

I don't know if you've decided what casued yours? I have little to go on in my case. One came on during a recce for the SDW50 out of nowhere and the other during the actual SDW50 and caused a bailout halfway. I read some meniscus damage can trigger these things but I don't recall any specific trauma.

Sorry to not have anything more positive to tell you! But it's not career ending and if they're anything like mine you shouldn't have too much longer to put up with them!