Have you ever gotten pain in the wrist with an odd bump at the wrist and not remember hitting your wrist? It is possible that you have formed a ganglion cyst. These cysts can arise on their own and without an injury to the wrist.
A ganglion cyst is a fluid filled sac that is usually located on the front or back side of the wrist, but can sometimes be located within the hand of fingers.
The good thing about the ganglion cyst is that it is not cancerous, but they can become painful and unsightly.
The “sac” is filled with fluid that comes from the joint capsule. This capsule is a membrane that sits around each joint and helps to contain joint fluid.
The fluid helps to lubricate the joint and limit friction. This sac fills with a thick fluid that is much like the joint fluid.
The most common symptom is a soft bump that arises from the skin and can grow in various sizes. If the cyst grows large enough it can cause pain from touching the area.
If the hand hurts, the pain may arise from wrist or hand movements that put pressure on the cyst at the end ranges of movement. Additionally, larger cysts in the wrist and fingers can cause limited motion when trying to flex or extend the wrist.
Most of the time a cyst develops with no known cause, but they can grow in size with increased activity to the area of the wrist.
Athletes such as gymnasts, weight-lifters, and cross fitters develop cysts due to the stresses placed upon their wrists. This is seen when performing handstands or pushing and pulling forces with lifting weights.
Household or work activities such as crawling or being on your hands and knees can cause increased irritation or pain to the cyst by having to support body weight on the hands/wrists.
Most often, you will be able to see the cyst arise through your skin without any diagnostic imaging.
If the cyst is questionable as to its origin, a biopsy may be performed to ensure the material is a non-cancerous joint fluid and not arising from a cancerous material.
An old treatment method was to take a heavy book (often a Bible) and smash the cyst by hitting the person’s hand with the book. Currently, there are less painful and barbaric ways to treat the cyst.
Conservative treatments that can be used by an occupationalor physical therapist would be to place the person in a splint or brace to limit movement of the effected joint and decrease the irritation and size of the cyst.
In addition to limiting the motion, wrist stretching and strengthening may be part of the treatment to help stabilize the wrist.
If this method fails and the cyst is painful or limits function, aspirating the cyst is attempted by a physician. The cyst size will be reduced with this method; however, if the patient returns to their previous, aggravating activities, the cyst may return.
The last and most aggressive method to treat the cyst is to remove the cyst and part of the capsule through surgery.
This is typically done as a last resort, but is most effective in making sure the cyst is gone forever.
The best home remedy is to protect your wrist movements and be aware to not stress the area of the wrist.
Putting weight through your hands when cooking or cleaning can cause increased irritation to the cyst and cause it to grow in size. It is best to avoid these activities or positions.
The best mode of prevention is to make sure your wrists are strong enough to protect them if you have a job or play a sport that causes increased strain. Wearing a wrist brace may help to give you extra stability.
The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute offers multiple treat options for a ganglion cyst. The hand team at the Jacksonville Orthopedic Inst. has decades of experience helping folks with hand pain and injuries. Come see us!
JOI is the official sports medicine provider of the Jacksonville Jaguars. JOI....Where the Pros Go!
By Katie Trumble PT/ATC