What Causes Outer Knee Pain While Running?

Your knees sustain an impact from each running stride you take. You can help keep your knees healthy by building your mileage over time and knowing when to rest. If your knees start to hurt, it's important to know what's causing your pain so you can properly treat it. Iliotibial Band syndrome, or IT band syndrome, is a common cause of outer knee pain for runners.

A runner feeling knee pain (Image: blyjak/iStock/Getty Images)

Significance

Iliotibial band syndrome causes knee pain that may keep you from running. If left untreated, knee pain may become so severe that walking becomes difficult. As a chronic, overuse injury, IT band syndrome builds up over time and takes time to heal. Improper treatment can make IT band syndrome a reoccurring problem for runners.

Causes

Friction caused by the iliotibial band running over the outside of your knee causes the lateral knee pain associated with IT band syndrome. Too much stress put on your IT band in order to stabilize your leg against the natural outward movement of your leg during running also contributes to IT band pain.

Symptoms

Outer knee pain is the classic symptom of IT band syndrome. The outside of your knee is the insertion point of the IT band, so if this connective tissue becomes tight, it will pull at this insertion point. The lateral aspect of the knee is also where friction builds as the band moves back and forth over the lateral epicondyle. You may also feel pain in the outside of your hip, as this is the origin of the IT band.

Treatment

Taking a break from running helps your IT band heal. Icing your knee and taking an anti-inflammatory reduces pain and inflammation. Ice your hip if you experience pain there. Stretching your IT band and hips helps reduce the tension that contributes to IT band knee pain.

Prevention

Exercises and stretches that target the IT band and hip abductors will keep your muscles and connective tissue strong and flexible. Muscular strength supports joints and connective tissue so you're less likely to put excess strain on your IT band. Keeping your hips and IT band flexible reduces the chances of strain.

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