What are ganglion cysts?

The word ganglion means “knot” and that is exactly what it feels like when you have a ganglion cyst. Ganglion cysts are noncancerous masses that form below the surface of your skin. They occur most often in the feet and hands, in the tissue near a joint. They may also occur on the outside of your knees or ankles.

Symptoms of ganglion cysts

A ganglion cyst is filled with fluid and can range in size and shape. If you have a ganglion cyst, it may appear and then go away for a while and then reappear again. A ganglion cyst causes symptoms such as:

  • A bump or lump under your skin
  • Pain or aching at the site of the cyst
  • Swelling at the site of the cyst
  • Weakness, if the cyst is near a tendon

Ganglion cysts happen due to trauma at the joint, either sudden or due to a repetitive injury. Orthopaedics at Main Line Health offers experienced orthopaedic specialists to accurately evaluate, diagnose and treat ganglion cysts.


Not all ganglion cysts need to be treated. In fact, some will disappear without any treatment. The orthopaedic specialists through Orthopaedics at Main Line Health offer both non-surgical and surgical treatment options for ganglion cysts that cause pain, interfere with walking and other daily functions or that simply won't heal.

Non-surgical treatment options for ganglion cysts include:

  • Aspiration — Your doctor will use a thin needle to drain the fluid from the ganglion cyst. After, a steroid medication can be injected at the site to help promote faster healing.
  • Modification — Your doctor may prescribe a special wrist guard or shoe modifications (padding) to make it easier for you to perform daily functions, such as walking or writing, without aggravating the symptoms of your ganglion cyst.

If your ganglion cyst continues to cause you pain or problems, or if it continues to return after aspiration treatment, surgery may be needed. Most of the time, surgical removal of a ganglion cyst is successful at preventing the cyst from returning. After surgery, you may need physical therapy or occupational therapy to return to full function.

Non-Surgical Orthopaedic Treatments

Some orthopaedic conditions are first treated with non-surgical procedures followed by surgery as the next step.