When a runner has lateral knee pain, it is almost always a case of Iliotibial Band (IT-Band) injury. This injury gets worse when a runner continues to train through sharp lateral knee pain that radiates up the leg to the middle of the outer thigh. It is a difficult injury that prevents a runners from training to his or her maximum. Here are few suggestions about what to do when you feel lateral knee pain.
Causes of IT-Band Injuries
Lateral knee pain, like almost every running injury, occurs when runners incorporate intense speed work, such as tempo runs and fartleks, and racing into their training without easing into the workload.
Lateral knee pain also occurs when a runner runs in worn out shoes, or pronation problem. Pronation means that the foot falls in-ward on impact, which puts tremendous strain on the knee and hips. Therefore, it is essential to run only in high-quality, supportive shoes. It might also be worth it for you to visit a podiatrist for orthotics if you feel like you might overpronate.
How to Treat and Cure IT-Band Injuries
Here are some ideas for trying to heal an existing IT-Band problem:
RICE: RICE stands for “rest, ice, compression, and elevation”. It is the default treatment for essentially any running injury. The first letter, “R”, is perhaps the most important. If you are feeling IT-band pain, don’t try to tough it out! Take at least two days off and give your body a chance to heal! As for the last three letters, I have found that the best way to to carry out RICE is to follow this method: 1) Freeze water in a paper cup in the freezer, 2) When frozen, take the block of ice out of the freezer and roll it over the area of your lateral knee pain, and also on the outside of your thigh for about 10 minutes, 3) Afterward, wrap an ace bandage or towel around your leg and, while lying on your back, prop your leg up on a chair, 4) After 10 minutes, take the towel/ace bandage off and repeat steps 1-3, 5) Try to do this at least 2-3 times per day. It is also very beneficial to soak on and off for 10 minute periods in an ice bath if you have access to one.
NSAIDs: “NSAID” stands for Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug. NSAIDs include Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Motrin IB), Naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs do a great job at reducing inflammation in the body and promoting healing. While these drugs may be help to help you if you are hurt, please be careful not to abuse the drugs. Only take them for about a 2 week period because extended use can really do bad things to your kidneys. I have heard some horror stories about runners who used NSAIDs for months on end who are now suffering from serious kidney issues. Therefore, use NSAIDs if you have an IT-band problem, but please don’t overuse them.
LIGHT stretching: If your IT-band starts to feel better, incorporate some very light stretching to increase mobility and lengthen the tendon a bit to promote healing. As stated above, be very careful not to overstretch. One good way to quads and calves. I have found that having tight quads (including hip flexors) and calves can sometimes lead to lateral knee pain issues.
See a professional: To be honest, if you really want to cure your IT-band injury, stop reading my page and go see a profession sports medicine physician and/or a physical therapist as soon as possible. As stated above, also make an appointment with a podiatrist for a possible prescription for orthotics. If you are an over-pronator, all the ice and stretching in the world is not going to cure a lateral knee pain problem. Over-pronation, by twisting the knees and hips as your foot lands, puts a tremendous amount of strain on the IT-band and will cause lateral pain. You can get an idea if you are an over-pronator by looking in the mirror as you walk. If your knee excessively rotates inward (faces the other knee), you might be an over-pronator. However, only a professional can correctly diagnose this condition so taking time to make an appointment with a doctor.
Keep a running log: Although a running log will not cure an injury, it can help you discover why an injury occurred. By tracking your workouts, you will be able to find errors in your training (i.e. not taking enough rest) that cause injuries to happen. Without the help of a running log, it is highly likely that you will continually repeat past training errors and suffer future injuries. The best way to start keeping a log is to sign up for a Runner’s Resource online running log. You won’t regret it.
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