Synovial cyst definition
A cyst is medically defined as a fluid-filled cavity with an epithelial cell lining. Synovial joints are joints that are surrounded by a synovium lined capsule. Synovial cysts often form within the capsule of degenerating synovial joints. The facet joints of the spine are synovial joints. In degenerative spine disease, pain may be caused by synovial cysts formed in facet joints. These cysts may also compress spinal or facet joint nerves, causing pain.
Depending on the size and location, synovial cysts may be completely asymptomatic, cause localized back pain or may even cause sciatica ( by compression of the sciatic nerve). Synovial cysts may also protrude into the spinal canal. Since the cysts necessarily occupy space, they may cause a type of non-osseous spinal stenosis, compressing spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself. Some synovial cysts are formed in association with spondylolisthesis. These synovial cysts may also cause compression of surrounding structures and become symptomatic.
Diagnosis of synovial cysts
Many patients have synovial cysts; however, unless cysts cause pain or other symptoms, they remain undetected. Unresolved back pain should prompt an appointment with a physician. To ascertain the cause of the pain, an MRI or CT scan will likely follow. Many synovial cysts are discovered through these tests. Other synovial cysts are discovered as incidental findings at time of surgery.
Unless the condition is severe, observation and conservative pain management strategies are the most common treatments for synovial cysts. Limitation of painful activities and physical therapy or chiropractic treatments for pain relief are also common treatments. In cases of severe chronic pain, your physician might recommend a minimally invasive micro decompression procedure. Traditional open back surgery with joint fusion, although highly invasive, is another treatment option.
What should I do if I suspect I have synovial cysts?
If you are diagnosed with a synovial cyst and the pain is limiting your quality of life, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures are more effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery and require minimal recovery time. Allow Laser Spine Institute to help you find relief from neck and back pain.