Popliteus Tendinopathy, Muscle, Tendon Injuries for Runners










Popliteus Tendinitis (mistakenly spelled Popliteus Tendonitis) is not a common knee pain condition. Chances are if you have popliteus tendinitis you are extremely athletic or you have a history of knee trauma.

Nevertheless, you’ll be glad to know relieving knee pain for popliteus tendonitis is relatively simple and straightforward.

Back of Knee













What is popliteus tendinopathy?

The popliteus muscle is located at the back of the knee joint. Popliteus tendinopathy is inflammation of the tendon of the popliteus muscle. Physiotherapy is a successful treatment for popliteus tendinopathy.

The popliteus muscle is in the back of the leg and is used for unlocking the knees. The popliteus tendon connects the popliteus muscle and together are responsible for walking and standing by laterally rotating the thighbone (femur) on the shin bone (tibia).

You can read more about knee anatomy here, or take a look at our helpful 3D knee diagram to better understand it. Our knee muscles article also has an overview of all muscles in the knee.

How does popliteus tendinopathy happen?

The popliteus muscle has many functions. It mainly acts as a rotator of the lower leg in relation to the upper leg and as a stabilizer of the knee joint. Excessive use of the popliteus due to poor biomechanics, running surfaces, or training progression can cause popliteus tendinopathy. This excessive use causes microscopic tears within the tendon. The body reacts by commencing an inflammatory response. The inflammation within the tendon is called tendinopathy.

What are the symptoms of popliteus tendinopathy?

Popliteus tendinopathy causes pain in the outside of the back of the knee that develops gradually. Initially, pain may only be present after exercise. You may also experience stiffness or tightness in the back of the knee. In the early stages of the injury these symptoms are often relieved with a hot bath or some gentle movement. However, if you continue to exercise without seeking treatment or professional advice your popliteus tendinopathy could worsen to the point where the pain and stiffness are there all of the time.

Other symptoms include:

  • weakness
  • balance problems
  • swelling/inflammation
  • gait problems

What should I do if I have popliteus tendinopathy?

You should seek physiotherapy treatment as soon as possible if you suspect that you may have popliteus tendinopathy. If you continue to exercise and do not seek treatment it is unlikely that your injury will improve.

What shouldn’t I do if I have popliteus tendinopathy?

If you suspect you have popliteus tendinopathy, you should not ignore the problem and continue to exercise. This is likely to worsen your injury and prolong your recovery.

Physiotherapy treatment for popliteus tendinopathy.

Physiotherapy is very important in the treatment of popliteus tendinopathy. At your initial assessment, your physiotherapist will diagnose your problem and establish the severity of it. Following the assessment, your physiotherapist will be able to formulate a treatment program specifically for you. Treatment may involve:

  • Range of movement exercises
  • Balance Exercises
  • Strengthening Exercises
  • Electrotherapy

Could there be any long-term effects from popliteus tendinopathy?

If properly diagnosed and treated, popliteus tendinopathy does not produce any long-term effects. If not, it can potentially cause prolonged pain in the back of the knee and a lengthy layoff from the sport.


The popliteus muscle is in the back of the leg and used for unlocking the knees. The popliteus tendon connects the popliteus muscle and together are responsible for walking and standing by laterally rotating the thighbone (femur) on the shin bone (tibia).

You can read more about knee anatomy here, or take a look at our helpful 3D knee diagram to better understand it. Our knee muscles article also has an overview of all muscles in the knee.

Popliteus Tendinitis

Popliteus tendinitis is often caused by a tendon strain. There are 3 levels of strains to the popliteus tendon.

Level 1 – The strain in the popliteus tendon causes pain but the tendon is not lengthened.

Level 2 – The strain in the popliteus tendon is lengthened because the ligament is stretched or ruptured.

Level 3 – The strain in the popliteus tendon is torn and movement is impaired.

Causes of Popliteus Tendinitis

Popliteus tendinitis occurs when a strain to the popliteus tendon becomes inflamed. It usually occurs from an overuse injury. The symptoms of popliteus tendinitis are inflammation, pain, swelling, and sensitivity outside of the knee.

Relief Tips for Popliteus Tendinitis

The RICE technique is the best method to achieve knee pain relief from popliteus tendinitis.

  1. Rest for approximately 6 weeks. Avoid activities that will put stress on your knee.
  2. Ice the area for 15 to 20-minute throughout the day.
  3. Compress the knee to add knee support.
  4. Elevate the knee above your heart to reduce swelling.

Knee Strengthening & Stretching Exercises

Knee strengthening and stretching exercises can benefit those who have popliteus tendinitis. However, consult your doctor or healthcare provider before beginning a knee strengthening regimen.

Outlined below are some of the most effective exercises for popliteus tendinitis.

Wall Squats – Stand up straight with your back against a flat wall with your feet about 6 inches apart. Keep your head up and look forward so your spine stays aligned. Slowly and gently slide down the wall a few inches and hold it for 5 to 10 seconds. Slide back up the wall to a standing position and repeat several times. Interested in learning more about the proper squat form? Take a look at the video at the end of this post.

Hamstring Stretches – Sit on the floor with your legs extended and heels on the ground. Put your hands on the floor by your knees and slowly slide your hands towards your ankles. When you feel a slight stretch hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat 5 to 10 times.

Quadricep Stretches – Stand up straight with your knees together. Place a hand on a wall for balance. Grab the ball of your foot with your hand. In a controlled form bring your foot to your buttocks. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Release and repeat 10 times. Repeat one set of 10 repetitions.

Hip Flexor Stretches – Place one leg in front of the other and bend your knee. Bend your other leg with your knee close to the floor. Place a hand on a wall for balance. In a controlled manner move your hips forward while keeping your back straight. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.


more info at:







Popliteus tendinitis: a cause of pain on the outside of the knee


Therapeutic Deep Tissue, Swedish Massage, Sports Massage Therapy in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Ca.


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