Ganglion Cyst Rehabilitation

Authored by Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, CKTS, C.D.S.

Ganglion Cyst Treated by Occupational Therapy



Great question! Some people get sacs of fluid in their wrist, but they can show up in or near any joint!  These fluid-filled sacs are soft tissue and are usually painless. Often times, a ganglion cyst looks worse than it feels which drives many people to have it addressed. It is important to note that some ganglion cysts, if left untreated, can impinge on the surrounding structures causing muscle weakness, decreased range of motion, pain, and sensory deficits (numbness/pins/needles).

Usually appearing in late teenaged years through early 40s, Ganglion cysts usually go away on their own – but once you have one, it is likely it will come back! This little tidbit is another reason why many people will look into treatment options the first time it rears it’s head! 


    What are some causes of Ganglion Cysts?

    Repetitive Use Injuries

    An example of a repetitive use injury includes typing/keying for a career, working on a computer, factory workers requiring use of the same hand movements over and over again, athletic endeavors requiring excessive force through the wrist/joints.

    Excessive Vibrations

    Careers or everyday work requiring handling tools with excessive vibration. An example of this would be construction workers, electricians, Carpenters, Machinists, etc. 


    Any type of chronic condition causing or exacerbating arthritis in your joints can lead to a greater chance of acquiring a Ganglion Cyst. 

    Various Repetitive Athletic Activity

    An example of a sport that may increase your likelihood of experiencing a Ganglion Cyst include gymnastics, cheerleading, yoga, shotput, bowling, etc. 

    Most Popular Procedures/Solutions

    • Conservative occupational therapy treatment
    • Aspiration (the cyst is drained)
    • Excision (the cyst is surgically removed and you are placed in an immobilizer for a short time) 


    Ganglion Cyst Treated by Occupational Therapy (1)

    Meaningful activities [occupations] affected by a Ganglion Cyst 

    • Driving
    • Meal preparation
    • Simple Housekeeping
    • Job/work demands 
    • Lifting children 
    • Pushing/Pulling wagons, strollers, wheelchairs
    • Push-ups
    • Yoga
    • General activity 

    Symptoms that may appear while you have a Ganglion Cyst

    • Tenderness
    • Pain
    • Decreased range of motion
    • Decreased mobility 
    • Pins and Needles
    • Numbness
    • Self-conscious because of its appearance
    • Inflammation 

    How will Occupational Therapy treat your Ganglion Cyst?

    (occupational therapy can help you whether you treat your ganglion without procedural intervention, aspiration, or excision)

    • Massage to encourage circulation re-uptake of fluid
    • Kinesiology Taping
    • Passive Range of Motion Exercises 
    • Active Range of Motion Exercises
    • Strengthening Exercises
    • Grip Strength
    • Fingers/Thumb Strength and Mobility
    • Functional Movement Patterns 
    • Reality-Based Interventions (Occupation-based Treatments)

    What are some problems occupational therapy can address?

    Check out other problems we help resolve!

    Helpful Page Definititions

    Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs)

    Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are essential for independence in life roles and required for aging in place. There are 8 activities core activities for independence including cooking, cleaning, communication, taking and managing medication, handling your personal finances, transportation and community mobility, shopping

    Cooking - The ability to follow a recipe and having the stamina to prepare a meal for yourself and/or your family

    Cleaning -   The ability to perform light housekeeping including making your bed, doing your laundry, washing the dishes, taking out the trash, vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning your bathroom, etc. 

    Communication - The ability to use the telephone, the computer, have conversations with people (familiar and strangers), communicate your needs clearly.

    Taking medication - The ability to sort and organize your medication or determine a compensatory method to do so as well as taking the appropriate dosage at the appropriate time. 

    Personal Finances - The ability to establish an organization method to understand financial responsibilities and pay your bills on time. 

    Transportation - Whether you are driving, calling for a driving service like a taxi or Uber, or taking public education. You must have a defined action plan for community mobility and transportation.

    Shopping - The ability to plan transportation, plan a grocery/clothing list of needs for yourself and your home, have the stamina to collect your items at the store, and be able to get them into your house. 

    Activities of Daily Living

    Occupational therapists are trained in occupations and activity analysis. An occupation is an activity that you believe is important to your life. There are many levels of occupations, but activities of daily living (ADLs) are the most personal activities and are usually the ones people find most important if they were to lose the ability to complete them.  

    ADLs include:

    • Bathing and showering
    • Getting dressed
    • Going to the bathroom
    • Walking and getting up and down from a chair or car
    • Eating and swallowing
    • Feeding 
    • Sexual activity 
    • Personal hygiene and grooming
    • Being able to use personal care devices like adaptive equipment and durable medical equipment 
    Muscle Imbalance

    Your body is complex and should be working synergistically with all of its parts. When some muscles have become weaker while others remain strong, an imbalance occurs which causes decrease balance, standing tolerance, and joint stability. 

    Neuromuscular Massage

    Neuromuscular massage helps many diagnoses. Most specifically used for chronic pain and the release of trigger points (knots), NMM can help resolve debilitating pain resulting from soft tissue implications. Another way we use NMM is to enhance reaction time in individuals after a traumatic neurological event. Studies suggest that NMM can break up adhesions allowing for stronger and faster communication between nerves.