Spinal cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the spine as a result of degeneration and can lead to spinal stenosis or other painful, serious conditions.

There are several different types of cysts that may develop within the spine, although synovial cysts are most common. Synovial cysts develop within the facet joints as cartilage wears away and excess fluid is produced within the joint. The excess fluid is retained within synovium of the joint and forms a cyst. Other types of spinal cysts include arachnoid cysts, Tarlov cysts, extramedullary cysts and many more.

Spinal Cysts Symptoms

Spinal CystsPatients with a spinal cyst may not experience any symptoms if the cyst remains small and stable. As the cyst progresses and becomes larger, it may cause pain in the back that travels down the legs, a condition commonly referred to as sciatica.  Other symptoms of a spinal cyst can be weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs.

Spinal cysts tend to cause pain in certain positions, such as while standing or remaining still for prolonged periods of time. Many patients can reduce the severity of their symptoms by frequently changing positions or by adjusting their activities to remain in a seated position more often.


Cysts that do not cause symptoms and do not seem to be growing at a rapid rate may not require any treatment other than regular monitoring of the condition. Patients that experience pain from their cyst may benefit from facet or epidural steroid injections that decrease inflammation and temporarily relieve pain. In some cases, the cyst can be drained or ruptured through the same needle used for facet injections.

Cysts that cause significant pain and are growing in size may require surgery to effectively remove the cyst and prevent serious complications from occurring. Surgery to treat spinal cysts most commonly involves complete excision of the cyst and decompression of the affected nerves, typically with fusion of the affected level.

It is important for patients to consider their treatment options by evaluating their own pain and discussing their options with an experienced doctor.