A runner’s knee is a common lateral knee pain problem among runners.


Fortunately, this problem is easily treatable with just three 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 three exercises.

I’ll also show you the difference between a runner’s knee and the patellofemoral pain syndrome because these two conditions are difficult to differentiate.

Today you will learn:

  1. What is a runner’s knee?
  2. What are the symptoms of a runner’s knee?
  3. What causes a runner’s knee?
  4. What is the difference between a runner’s knee and patellofemoral pain syndrome?
  5. Runner’s knee treatment with three exercises

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What is a runner’s knee?

runner's knee Irritation of the iliotibial band causes your runners knee.

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. It causes irritation and inflammation of the iliotibial band.

That 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 a 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.

That is the tendon of your iliotibial band.

This pain can occur 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 you start moving your knee it, may feel stiff and tight. You may be able to walk it off sometimes partly.

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear what causes a runner’s knee. There are however a few factors that may contribute to the arising 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 stretches. When you put a load on a pulled muscle or tendon, it tends to harden, making it tens.

Limited strength of your hip abductors like your glutes, increases hip adduction. 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.

It positions the insertion of the iliotibial band more anterior.

That 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 just increasing your running distance which causes the overuse of your iliotibial band.

However, sometimes these symptoms 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. 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
knee capWith the patellofemoral pain syndrome, patellar tracking is disturbed. It causes the surrounding structures to become overused. Overusing of structures is the primary cause of your pain. That is why your pain is diffuse and difficult to put your finger on.

Runners’ knee
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 particular in one place. The pain caused by the patellofemoral pain syndrome is more diffuse than the pain caused by a runners knee. It means that it 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 three exercises

With the following runner’s knee treatment we will address the three leading causes for your symptoms.

We have to address these three things:

  • the length of your iliotibial band
  • The strength 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 it will heal, and the pain will disappear.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Lay down on your healthy side with your legs straight.
  • Move your injured leg still extended about 30 degrees forward and let it fall 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 recommend using this massage oil.

Another option is to use a foam roller to reduce the tension of your iliotibial band.

Runner’s knee exercise 2: Increase the strength of your hip muscles

The second exercise is designed to increase the power of your hip muscles.

When your hip muscles become stronger, they will hold your upper leg in a straighter position. It 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 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 three 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 strength of your quadriceps muscles

The purpose of this last exercise is to increase the power of your quadriceps. Weak quadriceps muscles increase the load on your knee and improve the internal rotation of your lower leg.

As we mentioned before, the iliotibial band is essential in stabilizing your knee. More load asks for more stability, causing your iliotibial band to overload.

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 stretched
  • Pull your toes towards you
  • Now lift your leg straight up and let it come down again
  • Repeat this ten times
  • If this is to easy you can do it 15 or even 20 times
  • Repeat this three times

You can see how to perform the exercise here below on the video.

Try to perform this exercise twice a day every day.

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Conclusion

As you can see, you can treat your runner’s knee all by yourself with our five exercises. You have to know what to do.

If you have any questions left, 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.