The popliteal tendon connects the side of the femur at the knee with the popliteal muscle at the back side of the upper part of the tibia. It is in direct contact with several other tendons and ligaments as well as the bones themselves. The popliteal tendon prevents the knee from bending outward while moving. It is a relatively uncommon knee problem, but several methods of treatment are available, both surgical and nonsurgical.
Causes and Symptoms
Popliteal tendinitis is generally caused by overuse as the tendon rubs against other tendons, ligaments and bones adjacent to it. This can result in inflammation of the tendon, leading to tendinitis. A tear or severing of the tendon itself generally does not happen other than in cases where extreme trauma to the knee occurs. Running downhill can put undue strain on the popliteal tendon.
Symptoms include pain that seems located deep within the knee, often just above the back crease of the joint, which worsens during activity. This may be accompanied by minor swelling and redness and warmth in the skin above the tendon. If bending the knee and resting your foot on the opposite shin relieves the pain, popliteal tendinitis may be the cause of the pain itself.
Popliteal tendinitis is relatively straightforward to treat. For at least six weeks avoid activity that puts undue stress upon the popliteus tendon, such as walking or running downhill. Ice the knee and use NSAIDS, such as naproxen sodium or ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation and pain.
If the damage to the tendon is more severe, a doctor may cast the leg to restrict activity. If the tendon is severed, surgical correction may be necessary, which would include up to six weeks of casting and crutches, along with possible physical therapy for up to six months following the surgery.
If you feel deep knee pain, avoid high-impact activities that can impact the tendon, such as running or jumping. Allow proper rest periods between bouts of exercise.