Popliteus Tendinitis Recovery

Updated April 17, 2017

The popliteus tendon extends from the front of the shin, across the back of the knee and is attached to the back of the femur (thigh) bone. Popliteus tendinitis (tenosynovitis) can be a tear or inflammation in the muscle tendon. Recovery for popliteus tendinitis depends on the extent of the injury and treatments, including rest, ice, medications and exercise.


Popliteus tendinitis can usually be felt on the outside of the knee. The tendon can become inflamed, ache and be tender to touch. This can usually be a result of repeated use such as running, jumping or high impact. The recovery time can be reduced if a person starts treating the injury right away. Otherwise, scar tissue can form, exacerbate the injury and prolong the time frame for healing.

Effects of Rest & Ice

Once popliteus tendinitis sets in, it is best to rest the affected knee. Rest can help prevent further injury and reduce the recovery period. While resting, ice can be used to reduce pain and swelling. Ice causes vasoconstriction, which limits the flow of blood and lymph fluids to the area. Ice will be most effective for popliteus tendinitis recovery when it is compressed against the outer knee at 15- or 20-minute intervals throughout the day. Elevating the knee above the heart can also help control inflammation and hasten recovery.

Types of Recovery Methods

Time of recovery for popliteus tendinitis is contingent upon whether there is a partial or full tear in the tendon. A full tear will require surgery. A person will usually be required to wear a cast and use crutches for three to six weeks. For partial tears, a cast may be used even without surgery. Obviously, staying off the feet is the key to limiting the recovery time. If there are no tears in the area, a gentle stretching plan can be instituted. Stretching is the first step in getting the popliteus tendon used to movement. It can also loosen tight muscles and promote blood flow (with its healing properties) to the area. Massage can also help loosen the muscle and tendon and relax them. For those with tears, stretching usually commences after the cast comes off.

Types of Resistance Exercises

Once the inflammation and pain have subsided, light resistance exercises can help prepare the muscle and tendon for a full recovery. Bicycling is one exercise that can help runners get back to running activities more quickly. Light dumbbell training can also be effective for enhancing the recovery process. Light dead lifts (bending slightly at the waist) is a highly effective way to both stretch and strengthen the popliteus tendon, promote blood flow and speed recovery. Light dumbbell squats can also help strengthen the tendon and more rapidly prepare it for normal activity.

Time Frame

There is no set time frame for recovering from popliteus tendinitis. Those with tears can spend up to six weeks in a cast, then they must do rehabilitation, as well. People who are more proactive in their treatments are more likely to recover more quickly.

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