Runner’s Knee, or IT Band Syndrome, is one of the most common running injuries, but it’s treatable and preventable. Here’s how

Runner's knee - treatment and prevention

Runner’s knee can be a frustrating, chronic problem, so seek treatment quick when it appears (Illustration: Peter Greenwood)

Repeated running can lead to runner’s knee, or iliotibial band syndrome. It occurs when the iliotibial band – a large sheath of connective tissue that runs from the hip bone to the shin – becomes irritated through over use or weakness.

One of the iliotibial band’s main functions is to aid the bending and straightening of the knee, and extra pressure is applied when running because of the angle of foot and knee.

The rubbing of the ITB over the knee’s bony protrusions can cause race stopping pain, while running through the pain can tighten the ITB even further.

Some runners suffering from runner’s knee exhibit pain from the start of a run. For others it comes on during running, either continuing to worsen or easing off.

Runner’s knee – Symptoms

  • Pain on the outside of the knee
  • Pain when extending and contracting the knee
  • Discomfort when pressure is applied to the side of the knee area
  • Pain when walking up and down steps after running
  • Stiffness in knee after running

HOW TO LIMIT THE EFFECTS OF RUNNER’S KNEE

  1. Try not to spend all your time running on routes and surfaces that could aggravate the injury. Repeated running around bends on running tracks or constant exposure to really hard surfaces increase the liklihood of getting runner’s knee.
  2. Rest and recover properly – if you find that you are prone to runner’s knee, the most effective way of managing it is giving your joints at least two to three days off between serious runs.
  3. Cold therapy or ice packs – submerging your knee in freezing water, running a cold shower over it for five minutes or applying ice directly to it is the simplest way to reduce inflammation. Do this after every run, whether you’re in pain or not.
  4. Sports massage is a more expensive option, but done sparingly and professionally it can relieve tightness in the iliotibial band and have you running much more freely as a result.
  5. Use a foam roller to work out the tightness in your ITB. This can be painful at first so don’t overdo it, but regular use is one of the best ways to combat runner’s knee
  6. Have your running form checked – you could be prone to runner’s knee due to a narrow gait. If your feet overlap the central line, rather than landing side by side with space in between, more stress is put on the knees.

Find out more about common triathlon injuries or read more about how to avoid triathlon injuries on TriRadar.