A runner’s knee is a common lateral knee pain problem among runners.
Fortunately this problem is easily treatable with just 3 runner’s knee exercises.
In this post I’ll show you exactly what causes a runner’s knee and how you can treat it with 3 exercises.
I’ll also show you the difference between a runner’s knee and the patellofemoral pain syndrome because these 2 conditions are often confusing to
In fact, this is what you will learn today:
- What is a runner’s knee?
- What are the symptoms of a runner’s knee?
- What causes a runner’s knee?
- What is the difference between runner’s knee and patellofemoral pain syndrome?
- Runner’s knee treatment with 3 exercises
What is a runner’s knee?
A runner’s knee is caused by irritation of the iliotibial band.
Therefore the official name of this injury is the iliotibial band friction syndrome.
Medicinenet explains it perfectly:
“The iliotibial band runs along the lateral or outside aspect of the thigh and is an important structure that stabilizes the outside of the knee as it flexes and extends.
Inflammation of the iliotibial band can occur as it crosses back and forth across the bony prominence of the femoral epicondyle as the knee flexes and extends.”
Your iliotibial band starts at the outer side of your hip and ends on the outer side of your lower leg.
Your thigh bone bulges on the lateral side right above your knee.
When you bend and extend your knee, your iliotibial band has to cross this bulge, just like a speed bump.
Usually this crossing is no problem because there is not much friction. However when you iliotibial band gets to tight, friction might increase. This causes irritation and inflammation of the iliotibial band.
This is what we call a runner’s knee and causes pain.
What are the symptoms of a runner’s knee?
The main symptom of a runner’s knee is pain on the lateral or outer side of your knee. You can also feel pain in different parts of the iliotibial band somewhere between your hip and your knee.
You can usually feel swelling on the outer side of your knee and it hurts when you put pressure on this spot.
This is the tendon of your iliotibial band.
This pain can occurs during running, walking or climbing stairs. Symptoms may vary according to the severity of your condition. It can be a dull, stabbing or sharp pain.
Usually in rest you don’t feel pain at all but when your start moving your knee it may feel stiff and tight. You may be able to partly walk it off sometimes.
What causes a runner’s knee?
Unfortunately it’s not entirely clear what causes a runner’s knee. There are however a few factors that may contribute to the arise of a runner’s knee.
A study suggests that excessive hip adduction increases the tension on the iliotibial band. Due to the adduction of your hip your iliotibial band is stretched. When you put load on a stretched muscle or tendon it tends to harden, making it tens.
Increased hip adduction is often caused by limited strength of your hip abductors like your glutes. Training your hip abductors may overcome this cause for iliotibial band friction syndrome.
Another study suggests that an increase in internal rotation of the knee is a risk factor for developing runner’s knee.
This positions the insertion of the iliotibial band more anterior.
This results in more resistance during the extension phase of your knee.
The extra resistance in knee extension may cause the tightening of your iliotibial band and therefore the pain in your knee.
But it can also be caused by wearing old running shoes or by simply increasing your running distance which causes the overuse of your iliotibial band.
however, sometimes these symtpoms are confused with the patellofemoral pain syndrome. Therefore I’ll show you the difference between these two. After that i’ll show you exactly how to treat your runner’s knee yourself.
What is the difference between runners knee and patellofemoral pain syndrome?
We often see that the terms patellofemoral pain syndrome and runner’s knee are mixed together. Apparently it’s not very clear what the difference between these conditions is.
That’s why we will explain the difference to you:
The patellofemoral pain syndrome
With the patellofemoral pain syndrome the patellar tracking is disturbed. This causes the surrounding structures to become overused. Overusing of structures is the main cause of your pain. This is why your pain is diffuse and difficult to put your finger on.
The pain caused by a runner’s knee is present at the lateral side of the knee. The main difference between a runner’s knee and the patellofemoral pain syndrome is the location of the pain.
Another difference is that the pain caused by a runner’s knee is very specific at one place. The pain caused by the patellofemoral pain syndrome is more diffuse, can change from time to time and is different among patients.
Secondly having your knee in 90 degrees flexion for a long time can become painful or uncomfortable. With a runner’s knee moving your knee is painful but having it still in one position isn’t.
Runner’s knee treatment with 3 exercises
With the following runner’s knee treatment we will adress the 3 main causes for your symptoms.
We have to adress these 3 things:
- the lenght of your iliotibial band
- The strenght of your hip muscles
- The position of your knee
So let’s start with the first exercise:
Runner’s knee exercise 1: Stretching your iliotibial band
The first thing we’re going to do is to stretch your iliotibial band. When you do this, you will reduce the friction.
When the friction is gone, you’ve solved the cause of the irritation. This way the irritation will heal and the pain will disappear.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Lay down on your healthy side with your legs straight.
- Move your painful leg still extended about 30 degrees forward and let it fall down on the ground.
- If you don’t feel the stretch in your iliotibial band you can move your leg a little back and forth until you do feel it.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat it multiple times a day.
You can also try to massage your iliotibial band using deep tissue massage or trigger point massage. I would recommand this massage oil to do this with.
Another option is to use a foam roller to reduce the tension of your iliotibial band.
Runner’s knee exercise 2: Increase the strenght of your hip muscles
The second exercise is designed to increase the strength of your hip muscles.
When your hip muscles become stronger they will hold your upper leg in a straighter position. This reduces the tension and friction on your iliotibial band.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Lay down on your healthy side
- Extend your leg and pull your toes towards you
- Lift up your leg with your knee extended
- Make sure you keep it in line with the rest of your body
You can also see how to perform the exercise on the video below.
Perform this exercise twice a day every day. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions and slowly increase it to 3 sets of 20 repetitions. With this exercise you can train your hip muscles without overusing your knee.
Runners knee exercise 3: Increasing the strenght of your quadriceps muscles
The purpose of this last exercise is to increase the strength of your quadriceps. Weak quadriceps muscles increases the load on your knee and increase the internal rotation of your lower leg.
As we mentions before the iliotibial band is very important In stabilizing your knee. More load asks for more stability, causing your iliotibial band to be overloaded.
With the following exercise you can train your quadriceps muscles without overloading your knee even more.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Lay down on your back with your legs completely stetched
- Pull your toes towards you
- Now lift up your leg straight up and let it come down again
- Repeat this 10 times
- If this is to easy you can do it 15 or even 20 times
- Repeat this 3 times
You can see how to perform the exercise here below on the video.
Try to perform this exercise twice a day every day.
As you can see, you can treat your runner’s knee all by yourself with our 5 exercises. You just have to know what to do.
If you have any question feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].
Feel free to share this article with all your friends who also suffer from a runners knee.