Ganglion Cysts: Symptoms and Treatment

Ganglion Cysts: Symptoms and Treatment

A ganglion cyst is a tumor or swelling lump on the top of a joint or covering a tendon. Depending on the size of the cyst it may feel firm or spongey. They are usually harmless and rarely cause any pain. These cysts can be found on any joint in the body but about 60%-70% of the time they occur on the back of the hand or wrist. Cysts can appear for various reasons including: trauma that causes the tissue to break down, repetitive stress activities, or from arthritis.


  • The cyst usually appears as a bump that changes in size
  • The swelling might be immediate or can happen over time
  • Most cysts cause some pain, although 35% are without any symptoms
  • If connected to a finger, pain can be associated with joint motion

If your cyst is causing you non-stop pain, surgical removal is a common treatment. Getting the cyst surgically removed will help decrease the chances that you will get another cyst in that area because during the surgery the base of the cyst will be removed. When ganglions are on the top of the wrist, the cyst is punctured with a needle so that the fluid can be drawn out. When treated without surgery it is more likely you would get a cyst in the same place again.

Frequent activity can cause the cyst to grow because of the pressure that is applied to the nerves during movement. In order to relieve pain and symptoms, a wrist brace or a splint can help allow the cyst to shrink in size. Because the cyst is filled with fluid, gentle massage can help decrease the size of the cyst by moving the fluid out. Eventually the cyst will decrease in size, whether due to surgery or because of the fluid being drained out. After this happens, the tendon that the cyst was attached to will need to be exercised in order to get back to full strength and range of motion. Physical therapy will help the hand regain its strength and coordination.

At home treatment can help increase your range of motion:

  • Finger extensions using a special rubber band
  • Grip exercises using a ball
  • Resistance band exercises to improve ROM
  • Passive ROM exercises (you, using the other hand, or your therapist moves your wrist)
  • Active ROM exercises (you move the wrist on your own)
  • Strengthening exercises with and without weights

Here at Oahu Spine and Therapy we can put together a rehabilitation plan with you in order to avoid the development of another ganglion cyst. We can also help you with chiropractic care in order to prevent further joint injuries.




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