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.

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