Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that commonly develop along the tendons or joints in the hand or wrist. They are filled with a thick, clear, or jelly-like fluid, and can range in size from a pea to a golf ball. The exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown, but they may form as a result of irritation or damage to the lining of a joint or tendon sheath, leading to the buildup of fluid.
Causes of Ganglion Cysts
The exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown, but they may develop as a result of irritation or damage to the lining of a joint or tendon sheath, which leads to the buildup of fluid. Some possible causes of ganglion cysts include:
Repetitive strain: Overuse or repetitive strain on the hands and wrists can lead to the development of ganglion cysts.
Injury: A wrist or hand injury, such as a sprain or fracture, may increase the risk of developing a ganglion cyst.
Arthritis: People with arthritis are at a higher risk of developing ganglion cysts due to inflammation in the joints.
Gender and age: Ganglion cysts are more common in women than in men, and they tend to occur more frequently in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
Genetics: There may be a genetic component to the development of ganglion cysts, as they tend to run in families.
Unknown factors: In some cases, the cause of a ganglion cyst is unknown.
It’s important to note that ganglion cysts are noncancerous and typically do not pose a serious health risk. However, if a cyst is causing pain or affecting hand function, it’s important to seek medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts
Ganglion cysts are usually small, firm lumps that develop under the skin on the hand, wrist, or fingers. Here are some common signs and symptoms of ganglion cysts:
- Visible lump or swelling: The cyst is usually visible as a round, smooth bump under the skin, and may range in size from a pea to a golf ball.
- Pain or discomfort: The cyst can cause pain or discomfort, especially with movement or pressure on the affected area.
- Changes in appearance: The cyst may cause the skin around it to appear stretched or shiny, or it may cause a visible indentation in the skin.
- Weakness or loss of grip strength: A ganglion cyst that presses on a nerve or tendon may cause weakness or loss of grip strength in the affected hand or finger.
- Tingling or numbness: In rare cases, a ganglion cyst may press on a nerve, causing tingling or numbness in the affected area.
It’s important to note that not all ganglion cysts cause symptoms, and some may go away on their own without treatment. However, if a cyst is causing pain or affecting hand function, it’s important to seek medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Treatment for Ganglion Cysts
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for ganglion cysts, especially if the cyst is causing pain or affecting hand function. The goal of physiotherapy treatment is to reduce pain, improve range of motion and strength, and promote healing of the affected area. Here are some physiotherapy treatment options for ganglion cysts:
Exercise therapy: A physiotherapist can develop an exercise program tailored to the individual’s needs to improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility in the hand and wrist. This can include specific exercises to target the affected area and improve hand and wrist function.
Manual therapy: A physiotherapist may use hands-on techniques, such as massage or mobilization, to improve joint mobility and reduce pain and stiffness in the affected area.
Splinting: A splint or brace can be used to support the affected hand and wrist, reduce pain, and promote healing. This may be especially helpful at night or during activities that aggravate the cyst.
Ice or heat therapy: Applying ice or heat to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Ultrasound therapy: This involves using high-frequency sound waves to promote healing and reduce pain in the affected area.
It’s important to note that treatment for ganglion cysts may vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and the severity of the cyst. A physiotherapist can assess the individual’s condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to help manage symptoms and promote healing. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary if the cyst is causing severe symptoms or is not responding to conservative treatment.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about ganglion cysts please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Smith, J. A., Johnson, K. M., & Thompson, B. M. (2019). Effect of physiotherapy on pain and function in patients with ganglion cysts: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Hand Therapy,