The popliteus muscle is a muscle behind the knee. Trigger point pain is centered in the back of the knee.

Contents of Article

    Where Is The Popliteus Muscle?

    Popliteus Muscle Showing Trigger Point Location

    The popliteus attaches to the outside of the thigh bone (femur) just above the back of the knee, running diagonally to insert on the top of the tibia, the larger bone of the lower leg.

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Assists with bending the knee
    • Helps to rotate (turn) the lower leg inward

    For detailed anatomy information:  Popliteus Muscle Anatomy


    Popliteus Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Popliteus Referred Pain Pattern
    • Pain in the back of the knee
    • Pain behind the knee when straightening the leg
    • Inability to lock the knee
    • Pain in the back of the knee when walking or running
    • Pain behind the knee when crouching or bending the knee deeply
    • Pain is worse walking down an incline or stairs

    What Causes Popliteus Trigger Points To Develop?

    • Running and twisting the knee when changing directions
    • Sliding when running
    • Slipping when walking
    • Soccer
    • Football
    • Basketball
    • Tennis
    • Volleyball
    • Track and Field
    • Hiking downhill
    • Downhill skiing

    Popliteus Trigger Point Treatment

    While a knee brace can help stabilize the knee and reduce pain, a brace or wrapping is NOT recommended for pain behind the knee. Only use a wrap or brace if recommended by your doctor.

    Treating the popliteus muscle is easy however, you must be careful not to apply sustained pressure on the blood vessels or lymph nodes located in the back of the knee. If you are not familiar with trigger point therapy, find a chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist who has TrP training. They can show you how to locate the trigger point and how to apply the treatment.

    If you are comfortable doing self-treatment, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook provides diagrams and instructions on how to find and treat trigger points, including the popliteus TrP. If you are interested in learning how to treat trigger point muscle pain, this book is a must-have.

    Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. If you have reoccurring leg or foot cramps, you should keep Somba on hand; it provides almost instant relief. (Not sold in stores)

    Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain-relieving gel recommend for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. If your pain is from a recent injury, use Biofreeze. It is excellent to use on sprains, strained and sore ankles.

    Interesting facts:

    • The popliteus muscle is vital to unlocking the straightened knee and is referred to as “the key that unlocks the knee.”
    • Wearing a knee brace or wrapping the knee often aggravates the popliteus and makes the pain worse.

    Popliteus muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Popliteus tendinitis
    • Baker’s cyst
    • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
    • Avulsion of popliteus tendon
    • Injured meniscus or other knee ligaments and tendons
    • S1 Radiculopathy


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the popliteus muscle:

    • Plantaris
    • Gastrocnemius

    TWD Recommends

    Massage balls can be used to relieve tension in many areas of the body and are exceptionally effective for lower leg and foot pain. The Flex Fixx Massage Ball Set includes a smooth ball and two spiked balls, which will give you maximum treatment for various aches and pains in your feet. The balls are sturdy and can deliver very firm pressure. The set comes with instructions and exercises. Rolling your feet takes just a few minutes each day and can provide excellent results for foot and lower leg pain.

    Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

    Plantaris Muscle
    Soleus Muscle