Cysts

How to Get Rid of a Ganglion Cyst

Do you have a firm, smooth lump near your wrist or finger joints? Don’t panic because the lump is most likely not a cancerous tumor, but just a ganglion cyst, also known as a “Bible cyst.” Ganglion cysts are noncancerous fluid-filled lumps that commonly develop along the joints or tendons of hands or wrists, and sometimes near the feet. The exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown, but they are associated with using the hands or feet too much. They are harmless most of the time, but can sometimes cause pain when they put pressure on nearby nerves. The following tips can help you get rid of your ganglion cyst for medical or cosmetic reasons.

What is a Ganglion Cyst Composed Of?

You must be wondering what’s inside that lump on the back of your hand. Ganglion cysts typically form on top of joints or tendons. Inside the cyst is a thick, sticky, clear or translucent jellylike fluid. The fluid is similar to synovial fluid, a thick, stringy fluid that lubricates and cushions synovial joints. Cysts may feel firm or spongy depending on their size and the amount of liquid they contain. (Learn how to get rid of cysts)

Diagnosis of Ganglion Cysts

The first step to get rid of your ganglion cyst is to be sure that it is indeed just a ganglion cyst and not something more serious, like a cancerous tumor, so go see your doctor. The following are the questions your doctor will likely ask during your consultation:

  • When did you first notice the cyst?
  • Do you feel any pain or tenderness?
  • Does the lump interfere with your hand movement?
  • Are there things that seem to worsen your symptoms?
  • Are there things that seem to improve your symptoms?

Prepare yourself by writing down any symptoms that you’re experiencing, even those that seem unrelated to the cyst. List also all the medications, vitamins or supplements that you may be taking. It’s also a great idea to write down all the concerns or questions you have about the cyst. The following are tests your doctor may perform if he suspects a ganglion cyst.

  • Physical Exam:Your doctor applies pressure to the cyst to test for tenderness, and to find out if you feel any discomfort or pain.
  • Aspiration: The physician may confirm a ganglion cyst diagnosis through aspiration, a process in which a needle and syringe are used to draw out the fluid inside the cyst.
  • X-ray: X-rays are used to rule out other conditions such as a cancerous tumor or arthritis.
  • Ultrasound and MRI: Other imaging tests like ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be used to learn about the cyst’s shape, size, and depth. Some ganglion cysts are “invisible,” so your doctor may use ultrasound or MRI to see if there’s a hidden ganglion cyst in your hand. Hidden ganglion cysts may cause pain or discomfort if they touch nearby nerves or interrupt joint movement.

Getting Rid of Your Ganglion Cyst

It’s not advisable to get rid of your ganglion cyst if it’s not causing you any pain or discomfort. Some people though want to get rid of their ganglion cysts because of cosmetic reasons. Whatever your reasons are however, the following tips can help you get rid of your cyst as soon as possible.

  • Immobilization: Ganglion cysts can increase in size and cause more pain because of hand movement. You may choose to wait for the cyst to decrease in size while wearing a wrist splint or brace to immobilize the area. The splint helps your hand to rest, which may reduce the size of the cyst.
  • Aspiration: This procedure involves draining the fluid from the cyst. The doctor applies a local anesthetic above the cyst, then punctures it with a needle. He then uses a syringe to drain the fluid from the base of the cyst. The procedure is quite simple and can be done in the doctor’s office.

Research shows that up to 74 percent of patients are cured after an aspiration procedure. Cysts, however, may recur after some time. In fact, the recurrence rate for aspiration can be as high as 80 percent. You can have the procedure repeated if the cyst recurs. Studies show that having the fluid drawn out three times increases the possibility of being cured to 85 percent with a cyst on the back of the hand.

  • Surgery: Your doctor will recommend surgery if the cyst is causing significant pain, difficulty with hand movement, or if other treatments aren’t working. Surgical procedures for ganglion cysts are usually performed on an outpatient basis, which means you can go home the same day as the operation. The following is the typical course of the operation:
    • Step 1: The doctor applies a local anesthetic to numb the area with the cyst.
    • Step 2: He makes an incision in the skin at the location of the cyst. The size of the incision depends on the size of the cyst.
    • Step 3: He removes the cyst and the stalk that binds it to the tendon or joint. Depending on the nature of the cyst, he may also remove a small portion of the surrounding tissue, as well.
    • Step 4: He stitches and bandages the affected area.

Your will be asked to keep the affected area elevated for up to 48 hours to reduce swelling. Expect to feel tenderness, discomfort, and swelling for two to six weeks. Your doctor will probably recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, or analgesics such as acetaminophen to relieve the pain.

Change bandages at home as directed by your doctor, and remember to apply a topical antibiotic ointment with each change. Watch for signs of infection, such as swelling, increased redness, or discharge. Go to your doctor immediately if you suspect infection. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy for a few weeks to rehabilitate your hand or foot.

In general, ganglion cysts recur less often after surgery than after an aspiration procedure. As with all surgeries, however, there are risks to consider. Injury to tendons, blood vessels, or nerves is possible, although this is rare. Injuries like these can result in restricted hand movement, weakness, or numbness. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you.

Home Treatment

There are several ways to treat your ganglion cyst at home to reduce its size or remove it. Medical treatment is still better than home treatment, but you may still consider the following:

  • Bible therapy: This is an old home remedy for ganglion cysts that is not recommended by today’s experts. It basically involves smashing the cyst with a heavy object, such as a Bible, thus the name “Bible therapy” and “Bible cysts.” This treatment has not been shown to completely get rid of ganglion cysts, and could, in fact, cause more injury and unnecessary pain. Other ineffective and potentially dangerous old home remedies for ganglion cysts include poultices, topical plasters, and heat application. Also, don’t try to burst the cyst by puncturing it yourself with a needle or sharp object since this might only cause infection.
  • Splint: You can place a stint on your wrist or foot before or after surgery or aspiration. Doctors typically allow joint movement soon after aspiration. On the other hand, you may be required to put a splint on your wrist for seven to 10 days after surgery. A splint is a firm wrap that keeps your wrist from moving. Recent studies suggest that splinting for a long period of time isn’t really effective in getting rid of ganglion cysts, but using your joint soon after medical treatment may help.
  • Avoid repetitive hand motion: Ganglion cysts are especially common in people who perform repetitive strenuous activities with their hands, such as weight lifters, milkers, rowers, tennis and golf players, and musicians like marching cymbals and guitarists. It’s been found that double bass players are especially at risk after extensive use of the German bow. Try to refrain from repetitive hand or foot movement to relieve the pain and reduce the size of the cyst.
  • Wait-and-see approach: Cysts on the back of the hand often go away on their own. If the ganglion cyst on your hand doesn’t cause you too much trouble, it may be wise to just go for the wait-and-see approach. See your doctor to confirm if it’s harmless or not; and then give it a couple of months to a year to disappear on its own. If it doesn’t, then start thinking about other ways to get rid of it.

Weigh all the pros and cons of each treatment method before you decide on one. Talk to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment based on your lifestyle or occupation. Ganglion cysts are harmless and easy to get rid of, so don’t worry too much and just set up an appointment with your doctor.

If you’re interested in reading this article, you’ll surely enjoy reading how to get rid of sebaceous cyst.

About the author

Nicole Harding

13 Comments

  • I had a ganglion cyst on the back of my thigh a few years ago. The only way to get rid of it was with surgery. It was a very quick and painless procedure, and I wouldn’t advise trying to lance a cyst of this type. Get it surgically removed. You’ll be fine.

  • I had a ganglion cyst on the inside of my hand under the middle finger. I did go see a specialist and he laughed while telling me about how to apply the Word of God (Bible therapy) to it. I felt that sounded a little painful, but so does opening up my hand with a knife! Because the cyst was in such a spot the Good Book method was not an option. I used the end of a heavy flashlight and tapped the cyst area-just a bit. It is gone and my hand does not hurt anymore when I move it. Hitting the cyst is COMPLETELY a personal decision- up to you! Worked for me! 🙂

  • You should try homeopathy to have the cyst removed. I’m an 8th grade classical pianist and recently had a ganglion cyst. the hand specialist said i’d need surgery to have it removed and may need reconstructive surgery on my wrist for possible ligament damage and my wrist would never be the same again! so i got my mom’s homeopathist friend to mix me up some Ruta-Graveolens and after 3 days the cyst was gone! i have pics of before and after if you’re interested. but if homeopathy can fix a cyst that doctors say should be removed. I’m just trying to help those as much as possible who have a cyst cause i know how painful it can be in the wrist. the pain went away after 2 days.

  • I recently had a golf ball sized cyst removed from the front of my thigh and the surgery/recovery was very painful, requiring a minimum of two week recovery time. It could be due to the fact that my cyst was so close to the bone, but I had suffered with chronic pain in my right knee and ankle for months. Had multiple doctors tell me surgery was the best way to have it removed as well. Totally your choice.

  • Reading the post about having a ganglion cyst removed from the back of the thigh, I’m reasonably certain that it was not a ganglion, since they affect the joints, typically of hands and feet, and not a soft tissue area. While a cyst on the back of the thigh is painful and bothersome, it’s treatment is different than that required for a ganglion. /s/ Successful ganglion surgery patient

  • How do I get a hold of TJ that posted he got rid a cyst by using a homeopathic remedy called ruta-graveolens he said he had pictures to show before and after,also wondering if it would work on a semi large cyst on my right thumb. I’m getting ready to attend cosmtology school and I can’t even get the scissors around my thumb, At this point I’m very desperate and Ti’s cure sounded the most painless and reasonable. Just wondering about more information on it and he said he had details but no links following his post

  • I have a ganglion cyst on the top of my big toe. I have had it for 2 years. I have tried the poke and drain method (not working). I have been to three specialist. Each with almost the same treatment. They drain it then inject cortizone under it. It goes away for mabey 2 weeks but always returns. I cant see how removing it will do any different. You doctors need to fix what causes the cyst, not remove the cyst and hope it goes away. Does any doctor out there have a sure fire plan????????

  • I’m just a sixth grader and I have a huge cyst in my wrist. But I think ganglion cysts are genetic because my dad had one in the sane wrist at the same age and mine dissapeared for about a day and then came back closer to my hand and it was bigger and there was a while lot more pain.

  • I have a ganglion cyst on my right wrist. I’ve had it for years, and had surgery to remove it because my doctor refused to remove it with a needle for fear that it would come back. So I had the very expensive surgery, and I was in quite a lot of pain afterwards. As soon as I got the cast taken off it was back. I’m trying to find a doctor that will take it out with a needle, because hitting it does nothing. It won’t even bust.

  • I have a ganglion cyst on the joint of my wrist and i saw a specialist and they told me they wont do anything because its not big enough(golf ball or bigger) but it causes me so much pain and its only getting wore. i haven’t even been using it. but its on my left wrist and i use that to write. the pain sets into my fingers and the bottom of my wrist sometimes even up my arm. i don’t know what to do…

  • Over the past 20 years, I’ve had many ganglion cysts in both wrists. It took seven surgeries to get the first one removed to where it would not return. It first appeared on the top of my wrist and grew large rather quickly. After two drainings and injections of cortizone, surgery was done and deemed “sucessful” because the cyst “popped right out”. All subsequent occurences were on the underneath and each time it was drained and injected and then had to be surgically removed anyway. When it returned for the sixth time, I sought a hand specialist. He preformed the surgery and when I returned for my post-op visit it was already back. When it grew large enough to interfere with my work, a seventh, more invasive surgery was done. While the “bump” was on the underneath, the roots were intertwined in the artery and it actually started on the top of the wrist. The cyst, the roots and a four inch section of the artery were removed. My recovery time was seven weeks but that cyst never returned. Since then cysts have continued to appear on both wrists, top and bottom. I quit counting after the 10th excision. I’ve just began a round with two cysts occuring on the same wrist at the same time which affected my grasp almost immediately. I choose the usual course of having them drained and injected followed by immobilizing the wrist. Here’s hoping it works for “the twins”.

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