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Runner’s Knee (IT Band Syndrome): Treatment and Prevention

What is Runner’s Knee (IT Band Syndrome)?

Runner’s knee, also known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), is a common overuse injury that causes pain on the outside of the knee. It is caused by inflammation of the iliotibial band (IT band), a thick band of tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh and attaches to the kneecap.

The IT band helps to stabilize the knee joint during running and other activities. However, overuse of the IT band can cause it to become inflamed and irritated, leading to pain.

Symptoms of Runner’s Knee

The main symptom of runner’s knee is pain on the outside of the knee. The pain may be sharp or dull, and it may worsen with activity, such as running, walking, or climbing stairs. The knee may also be swollen and tender to the touch.

Other symptoms of runner’s knee may include:

  • A popping or snapping sound in the knee
  • Weakness in the leg muscles
  • Difficulty walking or running

Causes of Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is caused by overuse of the iliotibial band. This can happen if you increase your running mileage too quickly, or if you run on uneven surfaces. Other factors that can increase your risk of developing runner’s knee include:

  • Wearing worn-out or ill-fitting running shoes
  • Having weak hip or core muscles
  • Having certain leg alignments, such as flat feet or knock knees

Treatment for Runner’s Knee

The first step in treating runner’s knee is to rest the knee and avoid activities that cause pain. You may also need to apply ice to the knee for 20-30 minutes at a time, several times a day.

Other treatment options for runner’s knee include:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen your hip and core muscles, and to improve the flexibility of your IT band.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections: In severe cases, a doctor may inject a corticosteroid into the IT band to reduce inflammation.
  • Surgery: Surgery is rarely necessary for runner’s knee. However, it may be an option if other treatments have not been successful.

Prevention of Runner’s Knee

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent runner’s knee, including:

  • Increase your running mileage gradually.
  • Avoid running on uneven surfaces.
  • Wear supportive running shoes that fit well.
  • Strengthen your hip and core muscles.
  • Stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps regularly.

FAQ

What is the difference between runner’s knee and patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS)?

Runner’s knee and PFPS are both common knee injuries, but they are caused by different things. Runner’s knee is caused by inflammation of the iliotibial band, while PFPS is caused by irritation of the kneecap.

How long does runner’s knee take to heal?

The time it takes for runner’s knee to heal depends on the severity of the injury. Most people recover within a few weeks with rest and treatment. However, it may take several months for the pain to completely go away.

How can I prevent runner’s knee from coming back?

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent runner’s knee from coming back, including:

  • Continue to strengthen your hip and core muscles.
  • Continue to stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps regularly.
  • Listen to your body and rest when you need to.
  • Avoid running on uneven surfaces.
  • Wear supportive running shoes that fit well.

If you have any questions or concerns about runner’s knee, please talk to your doctor or physical therapist.

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