Beat Popliteus Strain, Tendinopathy, Tendonitis - Runners Popliteal Muscles - Rehab4Runners

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How to beat popliteal strain, popliteal tendonitis and what are the symptoms and causes?

Popliteal tendonitis, also known as popliteal strain effects a small muscle in the back of the knee and is a common injury for a lot of runners, cyclists and others. Here’s where the popliteal muscle is located in your leg:

popliteal tendonitis and strain

The popliteal muscle is located in the posterior (back) compartment of the lower leg and it works exclusively on the knee and rather than on the ankle like other muscles in your the leg.

What causes Popliteus tendinitis?

We see Popliteus tendinitis and Popliteus strain most commonly in people who do hill work during exercise, this can be during running or walking.

This injury is mostly due to overuse of the muscle either through overturning or because of a weakness in other muscles and ligaments around it.

For example we see this injury a lot in people who have had previous knee ligament damage, or those who have under developed hamstrings and glue muscles.

Symptoms of Popliteal Injury or strain

  • Experiencing pain at the back of the knee
  • You notice that the pain gets worse when you’re running downhill
  • If you turn your lower leg inwards whilst the knee is flexed, you experience pain
  • You get tenderness when pressing really deep into the very upper calf with your fingers

How do you treat popliteal pain?

As with most injuries, the best way to treat popliteal pain is to immediately rest. You should try your best to avoid any movements or exercise that causes the area pain.

Hamstring stretches are also a great way to treat popliteal pain and tendonitis. These help to make the muscle both more flexible and stronger which can help to treat popliteal strain.

It’s a good idea once the pain has passed and you’ve rested to strengthen muscles in the surrounding area. This is going to help future-proof you from injuries later on. Particular muscles to work on strengthening include you glutes and hamstring.

Glute strengthening exercises for popliteal strain.

  • Glute squeezes to start
  • Lunges
  • Squats (unweighted)

Hamstring strengthening exercises of popliteal pain.

  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Hamstring curls

Remember, you should be pain free first, before you attempt these exercises or you risk further injury.

How long does a Popliteus strain take to heal?

Popliteus strain takes around 6 weeks to heal. This depend heavily on how severe your popliteus strain or Popliteal tendonitis is. Generally with plenty of rest, you’re going to be out of action for around 6 weeks and you should ease carefully back into exercise after this.

How do you release a Popliteus muscle?

The popliteal muscle can be released using knee exercises and a muscle release ball such as this one here:


Sit on the floor, place the ball behind your knee and squeeze the ball by pulling your ankle towards your body. You may feel a little discomfort or pain down your leg, so go lightly at first but this can be a good sign that you’re targeting the right muscles. A good example is in this video here: