Have you noticed a lump around your wrist, hand, fingers, knee, or ankle? Don’t worry just yet. While you should always consult with a physician whenever you spot a lump you can’t identify, if the lump is in these areas, there’s a pretty good chance it’s just a ganglion cyst. These are non-cancerous tumors that typically aren’t going to cause any harm.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll enjoy having one. Ganglion cysts can be uncomfortable. Even though some of them don’t cause any discomfort, they can still have a minor but noticeable impact on your overall appearance. Thus, it makes sense that you’d want to know what steps you can take to prevent and get rid of them.
This article will provide you with that kind of information. However, you should know that the information here is not the same as expert medical advice. Again, it’s smart to talk with your doctor about these issues to ensure the problem truly is a ganglion cyst, and not indicative of an underlying medical condition.
That said, the suggestions here can help you better understand how to avoid and treat ganglion cysts on your own. We’ll start by learning a little more about what they are, what symptoms you might experience when you have one, and what causes them. You’re more likely to successfully prevent a ganglion cyst from developing if you know more about the nature of this condition.
What Are the Symptoms of a Ganglion Cyst? What Exactly is a Ganglion Cyst?
Ganglion cysts typically develop along tendons or joints. Many people develop them around their wrists, hands, or fingers, but they can also strike joints in other areas, like the knees and ankles.
The location is one of the key identifying factors a physician will use to diagnose a ganglion cyst. Again, while you should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice this small tumor, if it’s in one of these areas, there’s a good chance you have nothing to worry about.
The typical ganglion cyst is oval-shaped and very small. Few are larger than one inch in diameter. In some cases, ganglion cysts are so small that a person may not even notice they have one. However, they can change in size over time.
Many people with ganglion cysts experience no discomfort from them. That said, there are instances in which the cyst may press against a nerve. This can result in several potential physical symptoms, including pain, weakness, or a numb/tingling sensation (Source).
The cyst itself is nothing more than a protrusion of tissue. Inside of it is a clear, sticky fluid that’s similar to the fluid your body uses to lubricate your joints.
As of now, there’s no consensus within the medical community regarding what specifically causes ganglion cysts to develop in the first place. However, certain risk factors do make some people more likely to develop this problem than others. Keep reading to learn what those are (Source).
First, however, it helps to learn about a basic step you can take to confirm that the bump you’ve noticed on your body is nothing more than a harmless ganglion cyst.
A Simple Trick for Identifying a Ganglion Cyst
Remember, as soon as you notice this type of bump, you should get in touch with your doctor to get an official diagnosis.
The problem is, your doctor may not be able to see you right away. In the meantime, you could potentially start to worry that this bump you’ve noticed is a sign of something more serious.
You can help yourself relax fairly easily with a simple trick.
Ganglion cysts are not completely solid masses. The area within the cyst is filled with fluid. Thus, if you were to shine a flashlight through the cyst, the light would shine through more clearly than it would through other areas of tissue.
This isn’t a method that will work for everyone. If the cyst is particularly small, or if it’s in an awkward position, you might struggle to find a comfortable angle for the flashlight. However, for cysts of a particular size, this basic trick can help you relax as you wait for an official diagnosis (Source).
Now that you know a basic way of checking yourself, you can learn more about the various risk factors that make some people more likely than others to develop ganglion cysts in the first place.
Who Gets Ganglion Cysts?
Ganglion cysts can develop in anyone. That said, there are certain types of people who are more prone to them in general.
Gender and age are two major factors impacting your likelihood of developing a ganglion cyst. This condition is more common in women, particularly women between 20 and 40 years of age. Researchers are not entirely certain why this is the case.
Additionally, previous joint or tendon injuries boost your likelihood of developing a ganglion cyst in those joints or tendons. People who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis around their finger joints are also more vulnerable to ganglion cysts than most (Source).
Because ganglion cysts are not dangerous and typically don’t cause significant amounts of pain, physicians often don’t recommend any form of treatment. This is simply the kind of problem that tends to go away on its own over time. However, there are cases in which surgery may be necessary if the cyst is having a significant impact on your daily life. The doctor may also puncture the cyst to drain the fluid within. This can be effective temporarily, but there is a chance of the cyst developing again in the future if you go this route (Source).
Most ganglion cysts require no major medical treatment at all. Still, if you have one, you’re probably interested in finding out what steps you can take to ease your discomfort and make the cyst go away sooner rather than later. You’d also like to find out what you can do to ensure it doesn’t develop again in the future.
Remember, while the information here shouldn’t be considered medical advice, the tips below will let you know what types of steps you should take to prevent ganglion cysts and live with them more comfortable if they do develop.
Protect Your Joints
Again, researchers are not entirely certain why ganglion cysts develop in the first place. That doesn’t mean they haven’t identified factors that may increase your risk of having one. You already know that past injuries and strain have been linked with a greater likelihood of a ganglion cyst forming. Thus, experts recommend taking steps to protect your joints in areas where ganglion cysts are common.
This is important for everyone. However, it’s particularly important for people who engage in activities that could potentially expose their joints to harm. For example, if your job involves using your hands a lot, you may consider wearing a wrist brace. This will provide stability and protect against the kind of harm that can result in a ganglion cyst in the long run (Source).
If you needed another good reason to see your doctor when a new lump forms on your body, now you have one.
The fact of the matter is, you may not be able to entirely prevent a ganglion cyst if doctors don’t know what causes the problem in the first place. Luckily, you can prevent a minor cyst from causing major problems. Physicians recommend seeking treatment right away when you notice a cyst developing. The sooner a doctor has the chance to examine you, the sooner they’ll be able to intervene and prevent the cyst from having a more significant impact on your comfort (Source).
Physicians believe you can exacerbate the problems associated with a ganglion cyst by using the affected joint too often. That’s why they recommend immobilizing it until the cyst goes away. By wearing a brace or splint, you can reduce your excessive use of the affected joint. This may make the cyst go away more quickly than it would otherwise. However, consult with your doctor before choosing this option. Wearing a brace for too long can actually cause the muscles nearby to weaken (Source).
This suggestion certainly isn’t for everyone. It only applies to people who are beginning to realize their ganglion cyst isn’t something they have to worry about. Once they realize it can’t actually harm them, they may be less likely to stress out over the effects a ganglion cyst has on their day-to-day comfort. If you believe your ganglion cyst isn’t causing too much pain, consider just ignoring it. It will go away on its own over time (Source).
Apply a Warm Washcloth
Treating a ganglion cyst at home can be fairly simple. While you should call your doctor again if the discomfort gets too significant, in many cases, the minor pain you experience can be addressed with very simple remedies.
For example, applying a warm washcloth to your ganglion cyst and leaving it in place for about 10 minutes can help stimulate blood flow and facilitate the proper drainage of fluid from the cyst. Just soak the washcloth in warm water (make sure it’s not too hot for comfort), and apply it throughout the day to speed up the recovery process and reduce some of your discomfort (Source).
Take Over-the-Counter Pain Medicine
The kind of pain that results from having a ganglion cyst usually isn’t very severe. Thus, it’s often possible to treat it using nothing but over-the-counter pain medications. That said, make sure you use the medication according to the instructions on the label. You might also want to consult with your doctor first to make sure the medicine won’t interact negatively with any other substances you take on a regular basis. Just because a substance is available over-the-counter, that doesn’t mean it’s always safe (Source).
Add Some Ginger to Your Life
Maybe you’re the type of person who wants to relieve your pain, but doesn’t want to rely on medicine to do so. In this case, natural remedies can be helpful. Ginger is one natural ingredient that has been shown to be very effective at reducing pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. You can take advantage of these properties by incorporating more ginger into your meals, or drinking ginger tea throughout the day. There are also ginger supplements available.
Some advice that applies to all natural remedies mentioned in this article: speak with your physician before incorporating supplements into your daily routine. Although there’s a good chance they’re entirely safe to use, you’re better off protecting yourself by confirming with a physician first. This is basic general advice that can apply in any situation where you’re trying to address a medical issue on your own (Source).
Try Some Ice
Although a warm compress can be helpful as a means of stimulating blood flow to the area of your ganglion cyst, cold temperatures are better at fighting inflammation. Thus, they can be useful for getting rid of pain. If you’re experiencing significant discomfort associated with a ganglion cyst, apply an ice pack or cold compress to it. This basic step is often effective enough to thoroughly reduce your discomfort as you wait for the ganglion cyst to go away on its own (Source).
Massage Your Cyst
Again, you only experience pain from a ganglion cyst if it presses against a nerve. On top of that, the cyst will only press up against a nerve if it fills up with too much fluid and grows too large.
You can therefore reduce your pain (or related discomfort) by massaging the cyst gently but thoroughly with your fingers. This helps to drain out the fluid that has accumulated within the cyst. Over time, it will grow smaller, and will no longer press up against the nerve. That means your discomfort will also diminish (Source).
Give Aloe Vera Gel a Try
Aloe vera gel is a remarkably versatile natural ingredient that is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, it can be so effective at reducing pain and inflammation that experts often recommend keeping it with you if you’re ever spending a large amount of time outdoors. If you get a sunburn, applying aloe vera gel to it quickly can substantially reduce your pain.
This same principle applies to a ganglion cyst. If you’re struggling with discomfort resulting from a cyst, massaging a small amount of aloe vera gel into the cyst and letting it sit there for about 20 minutes before rinsing it off may help you reduce unwanted symptoms.
Keep in mind that while natural remedies absolutely can be effective, that doesn’t mean you should expect your pain to completely go away the moment you apply the aloe vera gel. There’s a good chance you’ll have to apply it multiple times a day to reap the full benefits this powerful natural ingredient has to offer. Luckily, it’s inexpensive, safe, and if used consistently, very powerful (Source).
Growing evidence suggests that the practice of mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce a person’s negative reaction to pain or discomfort (Source).
This is likely because mindfulness meditation involves observing the present moment without judgment. Rather than making your discomfort worse by thinking about how painful it is, you merely accept the pain without judging it as good or bad. This can have a very powerful impact on your perception of just how strong the discomfort actually is.
Luckily, you don’t need to retreat to a monastery to learn how to meditate, nor do you need to set aside an hour a day for this practice. Meditation can yield significant benefits even when practiced for short periods of time each day. Additionally, you can easily find guided mindfulness meditation recordings for free on Youtube or other video sites throughout the internet.
Best of all, the practice of mindfulness meditation doesn’t require investing money in any special ingredients or equipment. All you need is a relatively quiet space where you can sit for a few minutes and focus on the current moment without judging it. It’s perhaps the most affordable method of killing pain there is.
If meditation is the most affordable way to reduce pain, exercise is a close second.
Exercising may not have a direct effect on your ganglion cyst. However, it can have a major impact on your experience of physical pain in general.
You already know that staying fit is key to your overall health and wellness. It can also be key to your comfort. That’s because if you exercise vigorously enough or long enough, your body will begin to release endorphins. These are often considered the body’s natural painkillers. In fact, some researchers compare the effects that endorphins have on the body to the effects of morphine, without the possibility of addiction or unwanted side effects.
That can be great news for people with ganglion cysts. Adopting a rigorous exercise routine can help you get healthier while also reducing your experience of pain (Source).
Just remember, though, that ganglion cysts can potentially be irritated or exacerbated if you use the affected joint or tendon too often. Keep this in mind when deciding what type of exercise to participate in. For example, if you have a ganglion cyst along your ankle, running or biking may actually have a negative effect. On the other hand, if you have a ganglion cyst on your hand or wrist, lifting weights could cause harm. Look into types of workouts that don’t require using the area of your body where the ganglion cyst has formed.
Avoid Falling for Myths
When you look into ways of managing and getting rid of ganglion cysts, you may hear about one method that was common years ago, before people properly understood the nature of these small tumors.
The method involves trying to essentially destroy the cyst by smashing it with a heavy book. Granted, this can potentially drain the fluid from the cyst if you use enough force, but there’s a significant chance it will simply come back again in the future.
That’s one reason not to fall for this advice. Another reason is potentially more important. Try to smash a ganglion cyst with a heavy book, and you run the risk of causing more harm to the area around it. Based on what we know about ganglion cysts, this could exacerbate your condition and make you more prone to ganglion cysts developing in that area in the future (Source).
Use Tea Bags
Again, one of the great benefits natural remedies offer is convenience. They often don’t require using anything other than ingredients you may already have around your own. For instance, one popular home remedy for ganglion cysts involves applying black tea bags to them. Black tea has both acidic and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce your pain while also helping the cyst to heal more effectively.
For this remedy, let a black tea bag soak in warm water for about five minutes. As always, make sure the water is not too hot, otherwise you could hurt yourself accidentally. After five minutes have elapsed, remove the bag and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. Hold it against your cyst for about 10 minutes before removing it. As with other natural remedies, you’ll get the best results from this method if you practice it multiple times on a daily basis. You might experience the initial pain relief fairly soon after applying the tea bag to the cyst, but if the acid helps the cyst heal, this aspect of the process can take a little more time to yield major results (Source).
Give Tea Tree Oil a Try
Like many other natural oils, tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. That’s why some people recommend using it to manage the kind of discomfort associated with a ganglion cyst.
This is another fairly simple remedy. All you have to do is add two drops of tea tree oil to some coconut oil to dilute it. Apply the mixture to the cyst. You may want to cover it with a bandage or cloth to ensure it stays within the area of the cyst. You can then rinse the oil off after about 10 minutes. For the best results, repeat this process once a day. Over time you should start to see improvement in your condition (Source).
Or Try Frankincense Oil
Substances that have astringent properties make the tissues they come into contact with contract. Thus, they can be useful at managing the size of a ganglion cyst.
Frankincense oil is one natural ingredient that is well-known for its astringent properties. It may help you manage your condition if you have a ganglion cyst.
This remedy simply involves applying two drops of frankincense oil to your cyst and covering it with a new clean bandage twice daily. While many of the other remedies on this list will help you cope with the discomfort that can result from having a ganglion cyst, this remedy may actually be effective at preventing the cyst from growing too large (Source).
Or Castor Oil
As you may have guessed by now, there are many natural oils that can be useful for people who have ganglion cysts. Castor oil is another one. Some believe that the natural properties of castor oil can help reduce swelling around a cyst. It can also treat some of the irritation that develops from this condition.
This remedy is more effective if you soak a clean washcloth in castor oil and hold it against your ganglion cyst for about half an hour on a daily basis. Give it a try if swelling and irritation are two of the more bothersome symptoms you’ve been experiencing (Source).
Turmeric is yet another natural ingredient that has long been famous for its anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, it’s helpful for reducing the pain associated with a condition like ganglion cysts.
There are two major ways you can take advantage of the benefits that turmeric offers. You can either take it directly in supplement form (remember to consult with your doctor if you choose to take nutritional supplements), or you can directly apply a few drops of turmeric juice to the affected area throughout the day. You may consider experimenting with both methods to yield the best results. Additionally, because turmeric is a natural ingredient that can be used to enhance the flavor of many different meals, you might also decide to use turmeric more often in your own cooking (Source).
If you or someone you know is enthusiastic about natural remedies, there’s a good chance you’ve heard that taking echinacea when you have a cold can be very beneficial. That’s because echinacea naturally supports the immune system.
What you might not know, however, is that boosting the strength of the immune system can also have beneficial effects on a ganglion cyst. Specifically, using echinacea in this capacity may help to reduce the size of your ganglion cyst.
As with the remedy listed above, there are two major ways to use echinacea for this purpose. You can apply an over-the-counter echinacea ointment to your cyst throughout the day, or you can drink echinacea herbal tea. Go with whichever option seems more convenient for you (Source).
Maintain a Healthy Diet
You already know that eating the right foods is key to your overall health. This is important even if you don’t have a ganglion cyst. That said, if you do have a ganglion cyst, it’s even more crucial. Eating foods that support your immune system and guard against inflammation is key to managing your symptoms and preventing your condition from getting worse.
Because you want to focus on anti-inflammatory ingredients in your meals, you should try to incorporate more items like salmon, avocados, olive oil, blueberries, and walnuts into your cooking.
It’s also worth noting that, just as some foods can reduce inflammation in the body, other foods can actually make it worse. These include products that contain white-flour and or excessive amounts of sugar. Obviously, you should also avoid other harmful substances, like alcohol and tobacco, as they may exacerbate the problem (Source).
Avoid Certain Tasks
It may seem obvious, but it’s definitely a tip worth including on this list. Keeping this point in mind can go a long way towards helping you manage your ganglion cysts.
Again, you already know that you should avoid overusing or straining the affected joint/tendon if you want a ganglion cyst to go away sooner rather than later.
The degree to which you can control how often you use that area of your body may be limited, though. For example, if you have the kind of job that involves using your hands very often, you might not be able to take on other duties simply because you have a ganglion cyst on your finger, hand, or wrist. It’s worth discussing potential options with your employer, but you shouldn’t count on having the chance to focus on other tasks while you let your ganglion cyst heal.
That said, there are probably tasks in your daily life outside of work that could irritate a ganglion cyst. They may be tasks you don’t need to attend to right away. For example, maybe you were planning on painting a room in your home, or tackling a project in the yard. Consider putting these tasks on hold as you wait for your ganglion cyst to heal. You might also try to rearrange duties in your household temporarily. If you’re typically responsible for cooking or doing another chore that could irritate a ganglion cyst, you might be able to convince the people you live with to trade chores with you for the time being.
This is worth remembering throughout this experience. There are simply some factors you can’t control. If your job forces you to use the part of your body where a ganglion cyst has formed, there’s a good chance you can’t do anything about that. However, there are plenty of other tasks in your life you can let go of during the healing process.
Use Epsom Salts
Epsom salt baths are so popular because this simple ingredient has long been associated with pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. There’s also evidence to suggest that epsom salts can help ganglion cysts heal more quickly than they would on their own.
You can take a full epsom salt bath if you want to maximize your comfort, but if that’s too time-consuming for your tastes, you can simply mix two tablespoons of epsom salt with a cup or two of warm water. Again, always make sure the water isn’t so hot that it will cause further discomfort. Soak the affected area in the mixture for about half an hour. Repeat the process each day and you’ll soon begin to see results (Source).
Don’t Rely on the Needle Method
Earlier in this article, you learned about a popular but ill-advised method for getting rid of ganglion cysts on your own. You found out that trying to smash the cyst with a heavy book is not effective, and will be more likely to do harm than good in the long run.
The same goes for another method that some people use to try and rid themselves of ganglion cysts. This method involves using a sterilized needle to puncture the cyst and drain the fluid inside of it.
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t go this route. First, as you’ve learned before, getting rid of a cyst in this capacity is typically nothing more than a temporary fix. It’s highly likely the cyst will return again in the future if you try to destroy it. Second, you can imagine that the pain associated with trying to puncture a cyst on your own may be worse than any discomfort you experience as a result of the cyst.
You also should never perform any task like this if you’re not a medical professional. You need proper training to ensure the needle you use on your cyst is truly sterilized. Failure to properly sterilize the needle could result in infection. On top of that, if you’re not careful, you may end up poking yourself in areas not affected by the cyst. You might even apply too much pressure and injure yourself by poking the needle too deep into your tissue.
It can be tempting to try and rid yourself of a ganglion cyst with a quick and simple method. However, the potential risks certainly outweigh the benefits. If you’re truly struggling with a ganglion cyst and feel you need relief quickly, get in touch with a doctor. They can use special tools to drain or remove it safely.
Adjust Your Footwear and Clothing
Again, although ganglion cysts are typically more likely to develop around the hands and wrist, they can also develop on your ankles and closer to your feet. If this happens, you may want to make adjustments to your footwear in order to avoid irritating the cyst more substantially. For example, if a cyst is on your ankle try not to wear shoes that touch it until it heals. Wearing shoes that touch the cyst can irritate it and prevent it from healing as quickly as possible (Source).
The same principle applies to cysts that develop on other parts of your body, like your knee. Tight pants that brush against the cyst can exacerbate your condition. Try to make the switch to looser fitting legwear as you wait for the cyst to heal.
Give Arnica a Try
Arnica is yet another natural oil that offers a wide range of benefits to people struggling with ganglion cysts. Specifically, it has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce pain, while also helping to stimulate blood circulation in the area around the cyst. There’s good reason to believe this can help speed up the healing process.
For this remedy, you want to dilute the arnica essential oil by mixing it with an equal amount of either olive or coconut oil, whichever you have available. Once the two oils are thoroughly mixed, apply the mixture to the ganglion cyst and place a clean bandage on top of it. For the best results, repeat this process three times every day. Again, it may take some time to yield major effects, but if you’re willing to stick with it, you’ll be very pleased with the effectiveness of this method (Source).
Try Witch Hazel
You learned before that ingredients with astringent properties can be helpful in managing and reducing the size of a ganglion cyst. That’s because they tighten the skin up. Thus, you may benefit from this natural remedy which involves the use of witch hazel, another ingredient that is known for its astringent properties.
Luckily, this is another remedy that’s very easy to take advantage of. All you need is some witch hazel extract. Apply two to three drops to your ganglion cyst and cover it up with a clean bandage. Repeat this process throughout the day as needed. Over time, it can potentially reduce the size of a cyst, or at the very least prevent the cyst from growing any larger (Source).
Keep it Healthy with Apple Cider Vinegar
You do want to make an effort to keep the area around a ganglion cyst healthy. This is especially true if the cyst were to ever rupture. You don’t want bacteria to get inside and cause a potential infection.
Apple cider vinegar can help you avoid this. That’s because it has natural antibacterial and anti-microbial properties. All you have to do is dip a cotton ball into some apple cider vinegar and place it on top of your ganglion cyst. Use a bandage or a band to hold it in place, and remove it after half an hour. Practice this remedy multiple times a day for the best results (Source).
Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with a physician if you have a ganglion cyst. You want to make sure that’s all you have, and not another medical condition.
Ganglion cysts may be harmless, but they can be annoying. The tips here will help you prevent them, and help you manage your symptoms if one ever does form.