Bone & Joint

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Ganglion Cyst

What is a ganglion cyst?
Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled lumps or bumps that form on the hand and wrist (usually on the upper side). They are very common and often occur adjacent to joints or tendons. They may get bigger or smaller over time and occasionally disappear completely without any treatment. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous and will not spread.

What are the symptoms?
While harmless, even tiny ganglion cysts that aren’t visible can sometimes be quite painful. These growths tend to get bigger (and can cause increasing discomfort) with repetitive activity, such as typing.

What are the causes?
The cause is unknown, although they may develop in response to irritation of the nearby joint or tendon.

What is the conventional treatment?
One traditional "treatment" was to hit them with a heavy book, usually a family bible, which would disrupt the capsule holding the fluid of the cyst. If a cyst becomes irritated or inflamed, a cortisone injection may be recommended. Painful cysts can also be drained with a thin needle after the area is numbed. However, the cyst will refill with fluid about half of the time, so this approach won’t always eliminate the problem. Another way to relieve pain and reduce swelling is to immobilize the wrist in a splint.

Ganglion cysts can also be removed surgically. However, this is a complicated procedure and not necessarily a permanent fix, as the cyst may come back. The surgery is an outpatient procedure that will require two to six weeks of recuperation before you can resume your normal activities.

What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for ganglion cyst?
The traditional method of striking the cyst with a flat object is actually quite effective, although I advise you to us reasonable judgment regarding how much force to use. There are no specific integrative medicine therapies to address ganglion cysts. Changing habits of repetitive motion may help resolve cysts that come and go. If they are very painful or inflamed, or interfering with daily activities, you should see your physician to explore some of the options listed above. Don’t treat cysts that are not painful or unsightly. They may disappear on their own.