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Lateral knee pain? How to treat “Runners Knee” (ITB Syndrome)

If you are experiencing pain on the outside of the knee that has come on after a long run, walk/hike or cycle, you could be experiencing the symptoms of iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, also known as “runner’s knee”.

Symptoms

Runners knee often causes a pain on the outside of the knee that can feel like a burning or aching sensation, that is made worse when climbing up or down stairs or walking on incline/decline. Depending on the severity, it can be quite painful just to bend the knee at all when walking, once the symptoms have come on. You may also feel a click on the outside of your knee when bending and straightening the leg and you might be able to observe redness and warmth around this area. 

What is the iliotibial band?

The ITB is a long thick band of fascia and is often compared to a tendon. It runs from the outside of your hip and crosses your knee to join the top, outside of your shin bone. It is important in stabilising the knee joint as well as providing a point for muscles to insert or anchor into.

Cause

Runner’s knee is a result of the ITB becoming too tight and causing friction between itself and the outside of the knee when bending and straightening the knee, this often causes a clicking in this area. Long distance Running, walking or cycling, especially over uneven, banked or hilly terrain or surfaces are often more likely to cause this syndrome to occur. You also have a number of muscles that use the ITB as an insertion point to anchor into, if these muscles become tight and shorten they can pull on the ITB and cause it to become tighter and this then resulting in friction on the outside of the knee. Other causes can be as a result of wrong or worn footwear, poor running/walking style and technique, bike setup (saddle height etc), not allowing enough recovery time, not stretching correctly or enough and not warming up/cooling down.

Recovery

Recovery from this condition will require you to take a break from running, cycling, long distance walking and any other activity that makes your symptoms worse. 

Regularly icing the outside of the knee for 10 minutes at a time will help reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain you are experiencing.

Stretching will speed up your recovery and help prevent a reoccurrence, focus on stretching the glutes and hip flexors and try foam rolling down the outside of your leg between your hip and knee.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms and relying on you doing everything right and not exacerbating the condition, recover can usually be seen in 2-6 weeks.

How a Sports Therapist can help

Seeing a Sports Therapist is advised for ITB Syndrome as they will be able to confirm if this is the cause of your knee pain, assess and correct the cause and lead to a faster more affective recovery with less chance of reoccurrence.

A Sports Therapist will use your injury history and a number of special tests to confirm the diagnosis of ITB Syndrome and rule out any other sports injuries.

They will be able to perform assessments and corrections of exercise technique that lead to this syndrome. They will also advise you on your training and the correct equipment/footwear to use moving forward to prevent reoccurrence.

Your therapist will be able to address the tightness in the ITB by releasing the surrounding connecting tissue and muscles to lengthen the ITB and prevent the friction between your ITB and Knee. They may use a variety of different techniques and manual therapies to achieve this, such as; soft tissue release, sports massage, dry needling, assisted stretching techniques, ultrasound and ice massage.

They will also be able to provide advice and a plan on what you can do to help speed up your recovery and help prevent a reoccurrence of this condition in the future.

Contact us for a free consultation.

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