Bone Cysts: Causes, Types, and Outlook

Bone cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop inside joints. Bone cysts are common in individuals with osteoarthritis, but can also be caused by certain other factors. This health guide contains everything you need to know.

8 minute read

Last Updated July 14, 2020

Bone Cysts: Causes, Types, and Outlook

Bone cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop inside joints such as your hips, knees, and shoulders. The cysts are usually filled with hyaluronic acid, which is the fluid responsible for keeping the joint lubricated. 

Technically they resemble lesions more than cysts, and doctors often refer to them as geodes.  Bone cysts are common in individuals with osteoarthritis, the disease most commonly known to cause joint deterioration. 

What Causes Bone Cysts

Despite bone cysts being discovered decades ago, doctors are still uncertain as to what causes them

Also known as subchondral bone cysts, these sacs develop in the layer of bone directly below the cartilage. Osteoarthritis increases blood flow to this layer, and the excess pressure and flow could potentially cause cysts development. This additional blood pressure can also lead to subchondral sclerosis, which is the medical term for increased bone density. 

There are certain factors that are known to increase your risk for osteoarthritis and, therefore, bone cyst development. The common risk factors to be aware of include:

Obesity: Increased body mass increases the amount of pressure on your joints. This increases your risk of osteoarthritis and joint degeneration, which will allow for bone cyst growth. 

Smoking: The chemicals found in cigarettes promote cartilage degradation, and over an extended period of time, this will cause osteoarthritis and bone cysts. 

♦ Family history: There are some types of osteoarthritis that are inherited, so tour risk for bone cysts can increase based on your family history.

Prior injury: Having a prior injury or trauma causes greater wear and tear on your joints, increasing the risk for degradation and cyst development.
Abnormal alignment: having an abnormal joint alignment or unusual joint shape causes additional wear on the bones and joints, increasing your risk. 

♦ Gender: Women have a higher risk of developing bone cysts than men (they also have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis).

Symptoms of Bone Cysts

Bone cysts do not have any typical symptoms and are a symptom of diseases such as osteoarthritis. Along with the typical symptoms of osteoarthritis, you may also experience:

♦ Small protrusion from the joint where the cyst is located
♦ Limited joint flexibility
♦ Mild to moderate pain
♦ Stiffness in the affected body part
♦ Unusual bone angles

If the cyst develops in your spine, the function of your nervous system can be disrupted, at which point you will experience different symptoms, including:

♦ Muscle weakness
♦ Persistent headaches
♦ Numbness or tingling in the extremities
♦ Loss of muscle movement
♦ Shooting pain in the arms or legs

Types of Bone Cysts

There are several types of bone cysts.

Non-ossifying fibromas: This develops when the central layer of the bone forms into fibrous tissue instead of hard bone. These cysts are not painful and will spontaneously resolve without treatment. 

Fibrous cortical defects: This is a benign bone lesion that forms in the cortex (outer layer) of the bone. These are most common in your lower extremities and also resolve spontaneously.

♦ Unicameral bone cysts: These typically occur in larger bones near the growth plate and are mostly found in growing children. These cysts get smaller over time and typically resolve on their own.

♦ Aneurysmal bone cysts: These sacs are filled with blood or fluid and do not typically cause pain. If they grow large enough, they can weaken your bone, increasing your risk for fractures.

Traumatic bone cysts: This condition is only seen in the jaw and is a common result of wearing protective headgear or mouth gear during sports. 

Diagnosis of Bone Cysts

Your doctor will do a physical examination first but will also need an x-ray to diagnose a bone cyst. Additional imaging using CT or MRI scans may also be done if it is believed that the lesions have damaged tissue in the surrounding area. 

Your medical history, as well as any family history of bone cysts or osteoarthritis, is also relevant to an accurate diagnosis. Further diagnostic testing may be required if you are also experiencing weight loss and fatigue, so as to rule out cancer as the underlying cause. 

Treatment for Bone Cysts

In most cases, bone cysts will resolve themselves within six months to a year, but there are effective ways to manage your symptoms.

♦ Taking anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain
♦ Losing weight to reduce cartilage loss and reduce pressure placed on your joints
♦ Ultrasound therapy
♦ Physical therapy
♦ Low-impact exercises such as swimming and cycling can promote joint strength, reduce inflammation, and prevent further joint damage.

If pain continues to get worse or joint degeneration continues, then you should speak with your doctor about joint replacement. This is typically only needed in severe cases of osteoarthritis. It is also important to note that there is a one on three chance of a bone cyst recurring within two years.  

Removal of a bone cyst is not recommended because cutting around the area can increase your risk of infection. The best approach is to manage your symptoms, and let the bone cyst run its natural course. Only when the cyst is large and impeding movement will surgeons consider removing, as the benefits must outweigh the risks. 

Natural Treatment for Bone Cysts

While most bone cysts do go away on their own, there are natural treatments you can try that will reduce the time it takes. With the right supplement support, you can also reduce the risk of developing bone cysts. 

Enhancing the strength and health of your bones prevents the diseases that are associated with bone cysts. To prevent bone cyst development, and to reduce healing time, consider adding these beneficial supplements to your life.

♦ Calcium hydroxyapatite is a highly absorbable form of calcium. It also resembles the natural calcium found in bone. Calcium is necessary for bone formation, strength, and density. Without calcium, the risk of bone disease increases. Bone cysts develop in association with weakened or diseased bones, but you can prevent this. Calcium hydroxyapatite is an optimal calcium supplement that works with phosphorus to enhance bone strength.

♦ MenaQ7 is an optimized formula for vitamin K2. This vitamin plays a key role in bone health. It is responsible for transporting calcium to bones where needed. Without this, calcium can deposit in the wrong areas, leaving bones weakened and vulnerable. MenaQ7 supports bone strength and reduces the risk of osteoarthritis and associated bone cysts.

♦ Vitamin D3 is the version of vitamin D that the skin produces when exposed to the sun. As a supplement, you maintain optimal levels of this vitamin to enhance bone strength. Vitamin D3 assists the absorption of calcium in maintaining bone integrity and strength. In this way, the chance of weakened bones is reduced.

Outlook for Bone Cysts

Bone cysts are a symptom of conditions like osteoarthritis, rather than a condition in their own right. Bone cysts are not life-threatening and will resolve on their own. 

Should a cyst grow large and begin to interfere with joint movement, there are treatment options available to restore motion and reduce pain. By effectively managing the symptoms of bone cysts, the overall outlook is positive, and you can live a full and active life.

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