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A ganglion is a small, usually hard bump above a tendon or in the capsule that encloses a joint. A ganglion is also called a synovial hernia or synovial cyst.


A ganglion is a non-cancerous cyst filled with a thick, jelly-like fluid. Ganglions can develop on or beneath the surface of the skin and usually occur between the ages of 20 and 40.

Most ganglions develop on the hand or wrist. This condition is common in people who bowl or who play handball, raquetball, squash, or tennis. Runners and athletes who jump, ski, or play contact sports often develop foot ganglions.

Causes and symptoms

Mild sprains or other repeated injuries can irritate and tear the thin membrane covering a tendon, causing fluid to leak into a sac that swells and forms a ganglion.

Ganglions are usually painless, but range of motion may be impaired. Flexing or bending the affected area can cause discomfort, as can continuing to perform the activity that caused the condition.

Cysts on the surface of the skin usually develop slowly but may result from injury or severe strain. An internal ganglion can cause soreness or a dull, aching sensation, but the mass cannot always be felt. Symptoms sometimes become evident only when the cyst causes pressure on a nerve or outgrows the membrane surrounding it.


Diagnosis is usually made through physical examination as well as such imaging studies as x ray, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Fluid may be withdrawn from the cyst and evaluated.


Some ganglions disappear without treatment, and some reappear despite treatment.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or other over-the-counter analgesics can be used to control mild pain. Steroids or local anesthetics may be injected into cysts that cause severe pain or other troublesome symptoms. Surgery performed in a hospital operating room or an outpatient facility, is the only treatment guaranteed to remove a ganglion. The condition can recur if the entire cyst is not removed.

A doctor should be notified if the surgical site drains, bleeds, or becomes

  • inflamed
  • painful
  • swollen or if the patient feels ill or develops:
  • head or muscle aches
  • dizziness
  • fever following surgery

The patient may bathe or shower as usual, but should keep the surgical site dry and covered with a bandage for two or three days after the operation. Patients may resume normal activities as soon as they feel comfortable doing so.


Possible complications include excessive post-operative bleeding and infection of the surgical site. Calcification, or hardening, of the ganglion is rare.


Exercises that increase muscle strength and flexibility can prevent ganglions. Warming and cooling down before and after workouts may also decrease the rate of developing ganglions.



"Foot Ganglion." ThriveOnline. May 25, 1998.

"Hand or Wrist Ganglion." ThriveOnline. May 25, 1998.

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gan·gli·on / ˈgangglēən/ • n. (pl. -gli·a / -glēə/ or -gli·ons ) 1. Anat. a structure containing a number of nerve cell bodies, typically linked by synapses, and often forming a swelling on a nerve fiber. ∎  a network of cells forming a nerve center in the nervous system of an invertebrate. ∎  a well-defined mass of gray matter within the central nervous system. See also basal ganglia. 2. Med. an abnormal benign swelling on a tendon sheath. DERIVATIVES: gan·gli·on·ic / ˌgangglēˈänik/ adj. ORIGIN: late 17th cent.: from Greek ganglion ‘tumor on or near sinews or tendons,’ used by Galen to denote the complex nerve centers.

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ganglion A mass of nervous tissue containing many cell bodies and synapses, usually enclosed in a connective-tissue sheath. In vertebrates most ganglia occur outside the central nervous system; exceptions are the basal ganglia in the brain. In invertebrates ganglia occur along the nerve cords and the most anterior pair (cerebral ganglia) are analogous to the vertebrate brain; invertebrate ganglia constitute a part of the central nervous system.

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ganglion (pl. ganglia) A mass of nervous tissue, usually surrounded by a layer of connective tissue, that contains many nerve cells and synapses. In vertebrates, most ganglia occur outside the central nervous system. In invertebrates, they occur at intervals along the nerve cord; the anterior pair of ganglia are analogous to the vertebrate brain.

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ganglion (gang-li-ŏn) n. (pl. ganglia)
1. (in neurology) any structure containing a collection of nerve cell bodies and often also numbers of synapses. Ganglia are found in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Within the central nervous system certain well-defined masses of nerve cells are called ganglia (see basal ganglia).

2. an abnormal but harmless swelling (cyst) that sometimes forms in tendon sheaths, especially at the wrist.

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ganglion Cluster of nerve-cell bodies and synapses (nerve connections), usually enclosed in a fibrous sheath. In vertebrates, most ganglia occur outside the central nervous system. The term is used in medicine for a harmless abnormal swelling on a tendon sheath, normally at the wrist.

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ganglion: see nervous system.

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ganglion (path.) †tumour in a tendon; (physiol.) complex nerve centre XVIII. — Gr. gágglion.