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Popliteus Injury: Symptoms, Treatment- Sports Massage, NSAIDs, Knee Braces

What is Popliteus Injury?

The popliteus is a small muscle which is present at the posterior region of the knee joint almost crossing horizontally the back of the joint. This muscle is used for internal rotation of the shin bone and for unlocking the knee joint when an individual bends the knee from a completely straight position. The nerve supply of popliteus muscle is the tibial nerve6. Injury to the popliteus muscle4 is usually an overuse injury resulting in increased tone or tightness in the muscle. Poor biomechanics, faulty training, and tense hamstrings2 are the common causes. A fall or a tackle during sports where the knee is over-straightened results in tear of the popliteus muscle.

Symptoms of Popliteus Injuries

Popliteus Injury

  • Pain present at the back of the knee joint.
  • The pain may be either sudden or gradually developed over the time.
  • Palpation of the muscle causes pain or tenderness.
  • Resisted knee flexion produces pain or discomfort.
  • One of the common features of popliteus injury is tense hamstring muscles.
  • If the popliteus is significantly tightened, then full knee extension may be absent or uncomfortable.

Treatment1 of Popliteus Injuries

  • Rest from irritating activities.
  • Stretching the hamstrings.
  • The injury should be assessed by a sports specialist and imaging should be done if required.
  • Sports massage techniques to the muscle can be done.
  • NSAIDs3 (anti-inflammatories) such as ibuprofen helps in pain and inflammation.
  • Ultrasound application can be done.
  • Cold packs can be applied to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • A knee brace can be used to provide support to the knee.
  • Patient should enroll into a rehabilitation program in order to strengthen both the quadriceps and the hamstrings.
  • Runners or athletes should wrap their knees before undertaking any strenuous activities in order to keep their popliteus stable and thus reducing the chances of injury. Athletes should also make sure that their shoes have good ankle support. Running downhill should be avoided.
  • Corticosteroid injections5 can also be given.
  • If the injury is severe and all the above measures fail then surgery may be required.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 6, 2020

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