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Plantaris Muscle: Pain Behind The Knee

Behind the knee pain pattern of the plantaris muscle

The plantaris muscle contributes to pain behind the knee that sometimes extends down into the calf.

  • Pain  behind the knee
  • Pain will sometimes extend down into the calf
  • Is sometimes involved in cramps in the calf

Where is the Plantaris muscle located?

The plantaris muscle is found behind the knee. It is connected to the thigh bone (femur) and extends down the back of the leg to the back of the heel bone (calcaneus). The muscle belly itself is small and lies behind the knee. The tendon which connects the muscle to the heel bone attaches to the muscle in middle of the back of the knee and extends down the back of the calf to the heel (calcaneus).

What movements does the Plantaris muscle control?

  • It helps to bend the knee
  • It helps to point the foot and toes downward

Activities that cause Plantaris muscle pain and symptoms:

  • Any activity in which the knee is straightened while the ankle is simultaneously bent up toward the shin
  • Running
  • Pedaling a bike
  • While going downstairs you miss a stair landing with the ankle bent and the knee straightened to the extreme

Interesting facts about the Plantaris muscle:

  • The plantaris is sometimes called the mini-gastrocnemius due to the common attachment to the thigh bone (femur).
  • The plantaris muscle is missing in approximately 10% of the population.
Diagram of the plantaris muscle

You use the plantaris muscle when you bend your knee and point your foot downward.

Clinical diagnoses to which the plantaris muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Popliteus tendinitis
  • Popliteal artery aneurysm
  • Avulsion of popliteus tendon
  • Rupture of plantaris tendon
  • Baker's cyst
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease
  • Posterior compartment syndrome
  • S1 or S2 Radiculopathy

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the plantaris muscle:

For detailed anatomy information: Plantaris Muscle Anatomy

Help with Plantaris Muscle Pain Behind The Knee

When dealing with knee pain one of the first treatments many consider is a knee brace. While a brace may help with other types of knee injury and chronic pain, a brace or wrapping is usually NOT recommended for muscle pain behind the knee. Do not wrap or use a brace unless it is recommended by a medical professional. 

Cold Therapy Gel For Knee Injury Pain

For recent plantaris muscle injury or sudden onset pain behind the knee, I use and recommend Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel. BioFreeze is a cold therapy gel that provides pain relieve for new injuries and is great as a maintenance treatment for over use injuries. Cold therapy should be used on new injuries instead of heat as it cools the area much like ice and does not promote swelling. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. For plantaris muscle pain and pain behind the knee, rub Biofreeze behind the knee extending just up the thigh and down the entire length of the back of the calf to the heel.

Biofreeze is recommended for recent plantaris muscle injury

Cold and Warm Therapy Gel Wrap For Knee Injury Pain

If you have injured the plantaris muscle or have sudden onset pain behind the knee, cold therapy should  be your first course of treatment. I recommend the ColePak Comfort Ice Pack for use with behind the knee pain. Using a pillow to prop up your leg, place the cold pack between the pillow and your back of the knee. The pillow provides support for the knee and will help keep the knee slightly bent to provide better treatment and relieve muscle stress. You can use cold therapy for 20 minutes per hour for the first 48 hours. Do not use cold therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time as longer use of  ice or cold packs can cause tissue damage. The ColePak has two gel filled packs that remain soft and pliable when frozen.  The packs can also be used for heat treatment. It is a multi-use pack and can be used for most areas of the body.

ColePak hot cold pack to treat plantaris muscle pain

Warm Therapy for Post Injury Knee Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. It provides warmth without burning heat, unlike other heating creams and gels. It works well for post injury pain and stiffness as well as chronic arthritis pain as it can be applied several times a day. Apply Sombra to the back of the knee and down into the calf to ease plantaris muscle pain.

NOTE: Do not apply Sombra Warming Gel before using ice packs or heat packs as there is a risk of blistering the skin. You can apply the gel after treatment for longer lasting pain relief.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides relief from knee pain.

Self Treatment Help For Plantaris Knee Pain

Do you know that small "knots" and other dysfunction in the plantaris muscle can contribute to pain behind the knee?

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. can help you treat pain behind the knee by teaching you the techniques to find and eliminate trigger points. Author Clair Davies explains the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language. But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain, how to find the trigger point and treat it. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body. If you are suffering from pain in the back of the knee that sometimes extends down into the calf, treating the trigger points in the plantaris muscle can help reduce or eliminate you pain. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

The Trigger Point Workbook can help you resolve muscle pain throughout your body.

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