Popliteus Tendinopathy

Popliteus Tendinopathy

Article by John Miller

Popliteus Tendinopathy

Popliteus Tendinitis / Popliteus Tendonitis / Popliteus Strain

What is Popliteal Tendinopathy?

Popliteal tendinopathy refers to an overuse injury of the popliteal tendon. The condition is also known as popliteus syndrome but is historically known as popliteus tendinitis or tendonitis.

The popliteus is a small muscle located at the back of your knee. It is crucial in unlocking the knee from a fully straightened position. It is essential for everyday activities such as walking. It is also vital for stability around the knee and controlling the shearing forces around the knee.

What Causes Popliteal Tendinopathy?

A variety of different factors can cause popliteal tendinopathy. These include:

  • Overuse of the popliteus muscle in activities such as running
  • Traumatic knee injury
  • Chronic instability around the knee
  • Muscle imbalances in the lower limb
  • Incorrect exercise technique
  • Fatigue

What are the Symptoms of Popliteal Tendinitis?

The most common symptoms of popliteal tendinitis include:

  • Pain over the outside aspect of the knee, which may also spread to the back of the knee
  • Swelling or redness over the outside of the knee
  • Pain with straightening the knee
  • Pain with bending the knee from a fully straightened position
  • Weakness in the knee
  • Feelings of giving way when weight-bearing
  • Clicking

How is Popliteal Tendinitis Diagnosed?

On examination, your physiotherapist or sports doctor will look for signs of popliteal tendinitis. An MRI or ultrasound may confirm the diagnosis.

Please consult your knee physiotherapist or doctor to diagnose and commence popliteus tendinopathy treatment.

What is the Treatment for Popliteal Tendinopathy?


Many patients with popliteal tendinitis start to feel better within a couple of weeks of treatment. The time frame of your recovery will depend on a variety of factors such as age, previous activity level, treatment compliance and the degree/length of your injury.

Your physiotherapy treatment will aim to:

  1. Reduce pain and inflammation.
  2. Normalise joint range of motion.
  3. Strengthen the muscles around your knee
  4. Strengthen other muscles in your lower limb, including your calves, hip and pelvic muscles
  5. Normalise your muscle lengths
  6. Improve your proprioception, agility and balance
  7. Improve your technique and function (e.g. walking, running, squatting, hopping and landing)
  8. Minimise your chance of re-injury

If you have any questions or concerns at any stage of your rehabilitation, please let your physiotherapist know.

How to Prevent Popliteal Tendinitis?

There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing popliteal tendinitis.

Return to Sports with Popliteal Tendinopathy

Recovery for athletes with popliteal tendinitis is generally reasonable. You must complete your full rehabilitation program as prescribed by your physiotherapist to prevent further problems and reduce your risk of re-injury.

Please seek the advice of your knee physiotherapist to best manage your popliteus tendinopathy.

Common Causes - Knee Pain

Knee pain can have many origins from local injury, referred pain, biomechanical issues and systemic issues. While knee pain can appear simple to the untrained eye, a thorough assessment is often required to ascertain the origin of your symptoms. The good news is that once a definitive diagnosis is determined, most knee pain quickly resolves with the correct treatment and rehabilitation.

Knee Ligament Injuries

Knee Meniscus Injuries

Kneecap Pain

Knee Arthritis

Knee Tendon Injuries

Muscle Injuries

Knee Bursitis

Children’s Knee Conditions

Other Knee-Related Conditions

Knee Surgery

Knee FAQs

For specific information regarding your knee pain, please seek the assistance of a healthcare professional with a particular interest in knee condition, such as your knee physiotherapist.