The deep location of popliteus and it's relatively small size, mean that it is often overlooked!
The popliteus muscle is a fairly small muscle located behind the knee. It runs from the lateral side (outside) of the femur to the medial side of the tibia, lying deep beneath the main calf muscle (gastrocnemius). Its role is to unlock the knee just after the heel touches the ground when you are walking or running, so that you can slightly bend the knee and absorb the impact created while hitting the ground (what runner's call the "heel strike").
Popliteus also has an important role when running downhill as it assists the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in decelerating the femur and preventing its sliding forward on the tibia from the gravity force.
The deep location of popliteus and it's relatively small size, mean that it is often overlooked, although those therapists who are experienced at treating runners will be familiar with the form of tendinitis known as "Popliteus Syndrome".
Trigger Points and Popliteus
Trigger points can form in the popliteus for a number of reasons but are especially prevalent in hikers, and runners who do hill training. These trigger points can exist for extended periods without causing any symptoms, but if left untreated, they will make the host muscle less efficient, and increase the risk of other related injuries.
We also generally find trigger points in popliteus when treating clients who have had, or who are currently suffering from other common knee injuries such as arthritis, torn meniscus, ligament damage, and in clients who have undergone various forms of knee surgery.
Any form of knee instability may lead to the development of trigger points in popliteus, so taking care to strengthen your knees through regular targeted exercises is the best way to avoid this happening, especially for those "weekend warriors" who can sometimes ask a lot of their knees on a Saturday morning after a long week of sitting!
If you are suffering "unexplained" pain at the back of the knee (sometimes radiating to the big toe), ask your therapist about trigger points in the popliteus.
This trigger point therapy blog and the information contained in this website is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell.
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