Ganglion cysts, also known as Bible cysts or Bible bumps, are small, round sacs or lumps filled with a viscous synovial fluid.
The size of the lumps can range from pea-size to nearly an inch in diameter. They usually form over a joint or tendon in the fingers, wrists, ankles or soles of the feet.
The most common symptoms of a ganglion cyst are pain and discomfort along with tingling sensations, numbness or muscle weakness. Depending on the size, these cysts may feel firm or spongy.
The exact cause of developing ganglion cysts is not known, but any joint or tendon irritation or mechanical changes may trigger this problem.
These cysts are most common in people between the ages of 15 and 40, particularly women and gymnasts who repeatedly apply stress to the wrist.
In rare cases, they can occur in children younger than 10 years old. People suffering from osteoarthritis or those having a joint or tendon injury are also more likely to develop this problem.
Often, ganglion cysts heal with simple medications and home treatments, but in some cases surgical removal is considered the best option.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for ganglion cysts.
1. Warm Compresses
You can reduce the discomforts associated with a ganglion cyst with regular use of warm compresses. It will increase blood circulation to the affected area and promote fluid drainage. It will also reduce pain and swelling.
However, warm compresses will not prevent the growth of a cyst.
- Soak a washcloth in warm water and wring out the excess water.
- Put this warm cloth directly on the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat 3 or 4 times daily until the cyst is gone.
2. Black Tea Bags
The acidic property of black tea helps heal a ganglion cyst and prevents it from getting worse. The tea’s anti-inflammatory nature also provides relief from pain and swelling.
- Dip a black tea bag in warm water for 5 minutes.
- Remove it and squeeze out the excess water.
- Hold the moist, warm tea bag over the affected area for 10 minutes.
- Repeat a few times daily for several days.
If your ganglion cyst is causing unbearable pain, you can use ginger to reduce it. The anti-inflammatory property of ginger helps ease the pain and discomfort.
A 2011 study published in The Journal of Fitoterapia suggests that ginger is an anti-inflammatory agent that blocks Cox-2 activity, which likely causes pain.
- Drink homemade ginger tea 2 or 3 times daily or include more ginger in your cooking. To make ginger tea, cut an inch of fresh ginger root into slices and simmer it in a cup of water for 10 minutes.
- Alternatively, you can take ginger supplements. Always consult a doctor before taking a supplement.
You can also use turmeric to relieve pain due to a ganglion cyst. This herb has positive effects on inflammation and pain.
A 2009 study published in The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology suggests that curcumin in turmeric exhibits anti-inflammatory activity by regulating cytokines, redox status, protein kinases, adhesion molecules, enzymes and many transcription factors associated with inflammation.
- Apply some fresh turmeric juice directly on the affected area 2 or 3 times daily for several days.
- Alternatively, you can take this herb in supplement form, daily. Always consult a doctor first, as it can increase the risk of bleeding if you take blood-thinning medications.
Echinacea increases the level of the properdine chemical in your body, which stimulates your immune system and helps shrink the ganglion cyst.
A 2002 study published in The Journal of Alternative Medicine Review notes that use of echinacea increased production of properdine.
- Buy over-the-counter echinacea ointment and apply it topically to the cyst. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day until you get rid of it completely.
- You can also drink a cup of echinacea herbal tea once or twice daily for not more than a week.
Note: People who have an autoimmune disorder should not take this herb internally.
6. Aloe Vera
The anti-inflammatory property of aloe vera can stimulate healing of a ganglion cyst. It also helps reduce pain and swelling.
- Extract fresh aloe vera gel from an aloe plant leaf.
- Apply it directly on the affected area.
- Allow it to sit for 20 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Use this remedy a few times daily for several days.
Arnica is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent that can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. It also increases blood circulation, which helps the cyst heal faster.
- Dilute arnica essential oil in an equal amount of olive or coconut oil. Apply it on the affected area and massage gently. Put a bandage over the area. Do this 2 or 3 times daily for several days.
- Alternatively, buy an over-the-counter arnica cream or lotion, and apply a thin layer of it to the affected area a few times daily.
Note: Always do a patch test before using arnica. Some people can be sensitive to it.
8. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is a wound-healing agent that will help reduce and heal the cyst within a few days. It will also relieve associated pain and inflammation.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in 1 to 2 cups of warm water. Soak the affected area in it for 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat once daily for several days.
- Alternatively, combine ½ teaspoon of Epsom salt, 1/3 cup of warm glycerin and about 1/8 teaspoon of borax in a bowl. Mix the ingredients thoroughly until all substances are dissolved. Use a cotton swab to apply it on the affected area, then put a bandage over it. Repeat twice daily for a few days.
9. Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods
To minimize pain and swelling due to a ganglion cyst, eat more foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Some good anti-inflammatory foods are salmon, flaxseeds, avocados, ginger, turmeric, olive oil, tart cherries, walnuts, blueberries, blackberries, sweet potatoes and spinach.
- Also, avoid eating or drinking inflammatory foods like white-flour products, white rice, sugary foods, soda and foods rich in saturated fats.
- Be careful not to hit the cyst with any heavy object, as it can damage the skin.
- Do not try to pop the cyst by puncturing it with a needle, as this can lead to infection.
- If the cyst is on your wrist or hand, avoid repetitive movements of that area.
- If the cyst is on your foot, try to wear shoes that don’t touch it.
- If needed, wear a splint or brace to temporarily immobilize the affected joint.
- Make sure you consult your doctor if the size of the cyst is increasing rapidly or causing pain for a long time.
- Do not remove a ganglion cyst on your own using a needle, scalpel or scissors.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Donald J. Zoltan, MD (Orthopedic)
Can a ganglion cyst heal on its own?
Yes, a ganglion cyst can resolve on its own. Half of all ganglion cysts disappear without treatment.
Is it advisable to wear a cast if you have a ganglion cyst?
A cast is not helpful in non-operative treatment of ganglion cysts. If surgical removal is required, a cast or splint may be necessary to allow the joint capsule or surrounding ligaments to heal.
Is physiotherapy helpful when suffering from a ganglion cyst?
Physiotherapy is generally not helpful for ganglion cysts. It sometimes is needed to regain motion and strength, however, after surgical removal.
Is it advisable to massage or use any essential oil to help heal a ganglion cyst?
Vigorous massage can occasionally cause a cyst to burst and resolve, but is not a standard form of treatment. Essential oils have not been proven to be helpful for this condition, to my knowledge.
Can a ganglion cyst burst? What precautions should be taken if it has ruptured?
A ganglion cyst can burst with firm pressure or impact, and this often leads to its resolution. It will be sore and inflamed afterward, so rest and ice and perhaps a compression wrap can be helpful until the discomfort goes away.
Should a ganglion cyst be popped?
I don’t advise trying to pop a ganglion cyst on your own. A physician can aspirate the cyst with a needle, which often leads to permanent resolution of the problem.
Please provide some tips on ganglion cyst for the benefit of our readers.
Ganglion cysts occur most commonly at the wrist, and next most commonly at the feet and ankles, but can occur anywhere. Treatment is not necessary if there are no symptoms, but surgical excision is most reliable for getting rid of the cysts permanently.
About Donald J. Zoltan, M.D.: Dr. Zoltan is a board certified orthopedic surgeon subspecialty trained in sports medicine and arthroscopy. His scope of expertise includes the treatment sport injuries, arthritis, ligament injuries, meniscus tears, work-related injuries, etc.
He has significant experience in knee, shoulder, ligament repair and reconstruction of the knee; rotator cuff repair, and joint replacement of the knee.