Running With Pain Behind the Knee and Above the Calf

Experiencing pain behind your knee while running can be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as tendinitis or a Baker's cyst. If you feel such pain, immediately stop running to prevent further injury. Treatment includes ice, compression and elevation of your knee. Contact your doctor if pain persists.

Running on an instable surface, such as sand, can contribute to knee pain. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)


Your calf, popliteal and hamstring tendons are behind your knee and directly above your calf. Over-training, increasing your running mileage too quickly and running at a faster pace can cause tendinitis, or inflammation of these tendons. Tight muscles can also contribute to tendinitis. Symptoms include pain, swelling over the affected tendon and knee stiffness. If tendinitis is ignored, it can lead to small tears in your calf, popliteal or hamstring tendons. This can further weaken the affected tendon, increasing your risk of a complete rupture.

Popliteal Muscle Strain

Your popliteal muscle is a small muscle behind your knee and directly above your calf. An article published in 2004 in "The Physician and Sportsmedicine" journal reports that strenuous activities, such as downhill running, can cause this muscle to tear unexpectedly. Symptoms include pain and pressure behind your knee, muscle weakness and swelling. Running and other high-impact activities are likely to aggravate your symptoms.

Baker's Cyst

In and around your knee joint, you have synovial fluid and bursa sacs to help keep your knee moving smoothly. A Baker's cyst, or popliteal cyst, is when you develop an excessive amount of synovial fluid in the bursa sac behind your knee. Symptoms include joint stiffness, swelling and pain. Also, you may develop a noticeable bulge on the back of your knee.

Additional Causes

Additional causes of pain behind your knee and above your calf include a meniscus tear, knee arthritis, nerve impingement and artery entrapment. A meniscus tear is when the cartilage of your knee is torn, and arthritis is when it wears away. With a meniscus tear and arthritis, you may also experience grinding of your knee with movement. Nerve impingement and artery entrapment are when nerves or blood vessels behind your knee are compressed. Besides knee pain, compressed nerves or arteries can lead to numbness and muscle weakness in your knee and calf.


To reduce the pain behind your knee, stop running, ice the affected area, wear a compression wrap and elevate your knee. Take pain medications, such as acetaminophen, if pain persists. Stretching may also help alleviate pain associated with tendinitis and nerve entrapment. Other treatments your doctor may recommend include corticosteroid injections, massage therapy, physical therapy and surgery. Additionally, a severe Baker's cyst may need to be drained if it does not respond to non-surgical treatments.


Stretch before and after running to maintain normal flexibility in your leg muscles. To avoid knee injuries and over-training, increase your running mileage no more than 10 percent each week. Additional preventive measures include wearing a knee brace, running on flat terrain and strengthening your leg muscles.

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.