Pop What!?

Pop What!?

By Sharon Truelove

This week let’s discuss a very small muscle that when overworked or injured, can cause pain that often gets misdiagnosed.

The popliteus is found at the back of the knee.  When you are standing straight with your knees locked, it is the popliteus’s job to begin knee movement.  It is a muscle that has been called “the key that unlocks the knee.”  It is so small & hidden, trigger points often get overlooked in this area.

….so, what is a trigger point…in the popliteus?


If there are trigger points here, they will be felt posteriorly/behind the knee when the leg is straightened.

If popliteus becomes shortened, normal locking and unlocking of the knee is prevented.  Sometimes popliteus trigger points aren’t suspected because other muscles seem bigger and more important.

Pain may be experienced when crouching, running, or walking; and worsens when walking down hills or stairs. The pain may be mistaken for tendinitis, torn ligaments, damage to the meniscus….

Try the following treatment if you experience the above symptoms.  No promises but it might be the treatment your knee needs.

Popliteus may be massaged with the fingers or thumbs.

1.  Locate the tender area behind the knee.

2.  Massage it to warm up the area.

3.  With a thumb or finger go straight into the tender spot (finger perpendicular to the leg) & hold for 20-90 seconds.

4.  Do this up to three times. Symptoms should lessen considerably after a few days or repeated efforts. 



Popliteus is responsible for internal (medial) rotation, and bending (flexing) your knee from a straightened position. When one of these movements occur, micropscopic units of muscle fibers contract in a sarcomere (the contractile unit). The sarcomeres interlock like fingers. A trigger point is present when the overly stimulated sarcomeres (for various reasons) cannot chemically release from their interlocked state. Tiny knots then develop because the unreleased chemicals build up.

Popliteus also assists the inside knee joint (posterior cruciate ligament) by preventing the femur from moving forward on the tibia.

33 thoughts on “Pop What!?”

  1. I never really had any problems with my knee, but if and once I did I now know what I should do…
    Thanks Sharon

  2. Thanks, We tend to forget these small muscles and how hard they have to work and the effects they have on the body.

  3. Thank you Sharon for your help and knowledge. I have taken many things that you have taught us in the classroom and implemented them into my practice. You are an awesome teacher!

  4. Good Article. I have issues on extension (Standing). But this goes in the bag for future reference…Thanks, Jerry

  5. I was taught at a young age not to lock my knees. However, every now & then I catch myself locking my knees. I have also noticed that lots people do lock their knees. This article is a good lesson since many people have stand with their knees locked. I’ll use it on myself as well as others.

  6. This is interesting. I have constant knee problems, and have had two knee surgeries. I have problems with the actions listed here, and I wonder if it isn’t my popliteus instead. I will have to try this technique and see if it works for me. Thanks!

  7. Good day!This was a really fine blog!
    I come from roma, I was luck to find your topic in wordpress
    Also I learn a lot in your subject really thanks very much i will come daily

  8. I never would have given that a thought when the knee would be painful. I would have just thought something else might be causing discomfort. Thank you for the information and i will try this on my husband when his knee bothers him and see how he feels afterwards.

  9. Thanks for the info. my husband has had 3 knee surgeries so when he has a problem with his knee I will try this method.

  10. my lower legs almost always go numb when I spend much time in a squat and often go numb at other times as well. When I tried this, I found that they started to go numb again, but when I was done feeling came back very quickly. I was wondering if I was doing something wrong when i tried this, or if maybe this will help if I continued working on this?

  11. I hardly ever have knee pain, but once had a doctor tell me that I was basically high risk. I don’t know what that meant or why I would be, but the next time my knee hurts I will try this. Thanks. I’ll have to try it on my cousin. He is a roper so he has knee troubles.

  12. This is good information for me and others because I have torn cartledge in my knee. I never knew what to do to help the pain but I have an idea now so I will try it the next time it hurts.

  13. Hey Sharon,
    This was a good tip in general. I don’t have many knee issues but every now and then I do have a slight discomfort or weak feeling in my right knee. Next time I will try this technique to see if it provides any relief. And thanks for the reminder on the little guys, they are just important as their bigger siblings!!!

  14. I tend to have knee pain in my left knee, which in turn causes soreness through my hamstring. I will try this exercise regularly to see if some of that tightness will loosen up. Thanks!

  15. I will try on my son, a soccer player, who regularly has knee and hamstring pain. Along with Ross’s lab demo will try to get him to self massage.Will let you know how it goes. Thanks.

  16. Well it’s good to know that the hard to get to places like the knee can get some kind of attention. Maybe next week we can discuss the forgotten elbow because mine has been killing me for months.

  17. This is great information. I personally have never had any knee problems but my father and my fiance have both dislocated their knees so now that I know these wonderful techniques I will love to use them and hope that they work for them and keep it in the memory bank for later use. Thank You.

  18. My mom has a ton of problems with her knee so i sent this to her. She finally got back with me yesterday and said she absolutely loved it. I don’t really have any problem though myself.

  19. I could have used this a couople of weeks ago, when I had to go to the ER but, it could have been anything thou…

  20. I will pass this on to the girl who owns the toning salon where my office is. Today I “heard” her knees. Ouch. Hope she will take the time to do so.

  21. It was extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read more soon.

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