Popliteus Tendinitis

The popliteus tendon runs across the rear of the thigh up to the knee and curves to the front of the shin. It helps both to keep the femur in position and to avoid unnatural outward twisting of the lower leg while you are running. Inflammation of the tendon is common for certain track athletes and runners, and will necessitate rest and possibly other treatment until the injury has healed.

Symptoms

Acute pain experienced behind the knee immediately after the injury strikes. This is often accompanied by redness and swelling. The pain may prohibit successful walking, especially soon after the injury is sustained. However, in some cases the pain can be less pronounced or even unnoticeable to start with. The area around the popliteus tendon is likely to be tender to touch. Symptoms worsen over time, thus if you have experienced the above symptoms but not yet sought medical attention, the inflammation may become exacerbated and leg training can become extremely problematic, causing severe pain. It is essential to cease physical activities involving the knee while pain is present; failure to do so can result in scar tissue, which can be permanently damaging.

Causes

Pressure is placed on the popliteus tendon during such everyday movements as the feet hitting the ground. Running downhill can put an inordinate strain on the tendon if practiced excessively. This occurs more often than in general sprinting because the surface is not flat; other factors that can contribute to straining the tendon include overuse: running with fatigued muscles, for too great a length of time, or without suitable warm ups or other stretches. The injury is regularly felt after an ankle rolls unusually inwards, causing a tear in the tendon.

Treatment

Consult a doctor as soon as possible so that the symptoms do not have time to progress. The doctor will be able to ascertain whether there are any more serious injuries linked to your tendinitis, but in general the condition is easily treatable. Along with any medical advice, you should primarily take a break from all strenuous physical activities involving the legs until the symptoms have subsided, which may take around 6 weeks. Ice the area to reduce pain and swelling, and take anti-inflammatory pain medication if necessary. If the tendinitis is severe then the doctor might recommend taping the area of the injury or appropriate surgery if the condition is extreme.

When the pain has diminished, incremental physical therapy can help to build up strength and maintain movement in the area. The doctor or therapist can suggest appropriate alternatives to running, such as cycling.

Prevention

Warm up before activity and warm down afterwards so that your muscles and tendons remain in premium condition. Try to limit downhill running, using flat, even surfaces where feasible. If you have any biomechanical foot problems (a doctor can test for these), wear the correct shoe orthotics to fix them. Make sure that you are wearing suitable shoes for your activities. Running shoes should be replaced at least every 500 miles, and worn shoes need immediate replacement.

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