Popliteus Tenosynovitis

What is it?

Popliteus (pop-lih-t-us) tenosynovitis (ten-o-sin-o-vi-tis) is a tear in the popliteus tendon. It is also called popliteus tendinitis. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects muscles to bones. The popliteus tendon goes from the bottom back of the thighbone across the back of the knee to the top front of the shinbone. The popliteus tendon prevents the lower leg from twisting outward when running.

Causes:

Popliteus tendinitis is often caused when your feet roll inward. Running downhill can also tear the popliteus tendon by putting too much stress on the tendon.

Signs and Symptoms:

With popliteus tendinitis you may have inflammation (pain, swelling, and tenderness) on the outside of your knee. Ignoring the pain and continuing to exercise can cause the inflammation to get worse. With time, scar tissue may form. This may make it painful to exercise forever. It may take weeks to fully recover from tendinitis.

Care:

  • The most important part of treating tendinitis is resting your popliteus tendon while it heals. Resting your leg lessens swelling and keeps the tendinitis from getting worse. When the pain decreases, begin normal, slow movements.

  • Ice causes blood vessels to constrict (get small) which helps lessen inflammation (swelling, pain, and redness). Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Put this under your knee for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you can get frostbite.

  • Caregivers may wrap your knee with tape or an elastic bandage to keep your knee from swelling. You may be told to keep your leg raised on a stool or pillows which also helps to lessen swelling.

  • You may use ibuprofen (i-bew-pro-fin) and acetaminophen (uh-c-tuh-min-o-fin) for your pain. These may be bought as over-the-counter medicine. Do not take ibuprofen if you are allergic to aspirin.

  • Your caregiver may want you to go to physical (fiz-ih-kull) therapy. A physical therapist will do treatments to help your tendinitis heal faster. Exercises to make the tendon stronger will be started after the tendinitis has healed.

    • Caregivers may use ultrasound to increase blood flow to the injured area. This may help tendinitis heal faster.

    • Caregivers may use massage to stretch the tissue and bring heat to the injury which increases blood flow. This can help your leg heal faster and better.

    • You may gradually increase the amount of weight you put on your leg when caregivers say it is OK. You will be told to make sure you remain pain-free as you use your leg more.

    • You may also be told to wear shoe inserts with a reinforced heel counter. This will give better heel control to keep your heel from rolling inward.

    • Do not return to running until you are pain-free and your caregiver says it is OK.

    • Start exercising slowly, like bicycling and running, when caregivers say that it is OK.

      • Always do stretching exercises first. This will loosen your muscles, especially the hamstring muscle in the back of your thigh. Stretching also helps lessen stress on the popliteus tendon.

      • Do not run downhill for at least 3 weeks after you have started running again once caregivers say it is OK.

Call your caregiver if:

  • Your pain and swelling increase.

  • You develop new, unexplained symptoms.

  • You have a temperature over 100.4° F (38° C).

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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