Ganglion Cysts – Everything you need to know

What are Ganglion Cysts?
A ganglion cyst is a lump that can occur along the path of a tendon or over a joint within the body. The most common sites for ganglion cysts are over the wrists, ankles or feet and can either present with or without pain.

The cyst is made up of fluid from within the body and can increase or decrease in size over time.

Pain is the most common reason someone may seek treatment for a ganglion cyst as it can impede on every day or sporting activities.

What are the Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts?
The most common symptoms of ganglion cysts include:

  • Visible lump over a tendon path or joint
  • Numbness/ tingling/ altered sensations
  • Loss of confident mobility
  • Pain preventing ideal movement

What causes a ganglion cyst?
When fluid accumulates on the outside of a tendon sheath or on the outside of a joint, a ganglion is formed. This accumulation of fluid and the forming of a ganglion cyst can be contributed to by injury, trauma or overuse repetitive movement. For this reason it is a common injury to occur in wrist and ankle sprains or activities with high impact and repetitive movements such as gymnastics or kicking / striking activities. People who usually present with ganglion cysts over the ankles recall a history of recurrent ankle sprains.

How are Ganglion Cysts diagnosed?
Your treating practitioner will provide you with a physical assessment of the suspect ganglion cyst and inspect if the lump is overlying a joint or tendon path. Your practitioner will also ask you questions about your activity and occupational history to understand potential mechanisms of injury. In some cases, imaging such as ultrasound may be ordered to confirm diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for Ganglion Cysts?
The most recommended course of treatment is to immobilise and aspirate (remove fluid with a syringe). This treatment is simple, rather painless and is successful for some ganglion’s.

Where ganglion’s have been aspirated and recurrence occurs more than once, it is worth considering surgical removal of the ganglion cyst. It is important to note that even with surgical removal, recurrence of the cyst is still a possibility.

For ganglion cysts on the feet or ankles, it is important to consider footwear and the biomechanics (the way a person walks / moves) of an individual to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Written by:
Daniel Monteleone
Podiatrist, Strength and Conditioning Coach

Foot & Ankle Pain
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