RUNNER’S KNEE

Jessica Rider
SPECIALIST SPORTS PHYSIOTHERAPIST

Runner’s knee can be painful and frustrating! Runner’s knee is the common name for Ilio-Tibial Band (ITB) Friction Syndrome, and although we see it mostly in runners, we also see it frequently in cyclists, footballers and even in walkers. The most common cause of Runner’s Knee is a combination of poor biomechanics, weak gluteals and increasing your training load too quickly.

The ITB is a long band of very strong tissue (fascia) that runs from the hip down the side of the thigh to the knee (you can feel it on the outer side of the knee). When the hip and trunk muscles don’t work properly, the pelvis shifts sideways, causing overload of the ITB and creating friction over the bony part at the side of the knee; resulting in pain and inflammation (stiffness and swelling).

Sometimes the pain settles on its own with rest and some anti-inflammatory gel, but if the pain persists or becomes worse, you really ought to see a physio for some help. When things get really bad, sometimes a sports doctor might suggest a steroid injection (but this is much less common).

What we know is that stretching the ITB doesn’t help! The ITB is almost as strong as Kevlar and as it is the tension that causes the problem, stretching doesn’t make much sense. We may suggest some massage or using a foam roller, but the mainstay of treatment is getting your trunk, hip and butt muscles working again – you can try something like side lying leg lifts as a starting point to make your glutes work better.

To prevent Runner’s knee, the most important thing is suitable planning of your training. Increasing training too quickly or adding in too many hills or speed sessions without building up to it, can cause all types of issues. A small amount of strength training can help with both performance and prevention of injury, as can keeping flexible. It’s a good idea to speak to one of our sports physios or your PT for some advice.

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