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Runner’s knee, also known as iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS), can affect anyone, from the most experienced athletes to those just starting out and exercising as part of a healthier lifestyle.

The injury is caused by the iliotibial band rubbing against the femur when you straighten and bend the knee while running. It is classed as an overuse injury and there are two main reasons why it happens.

The first is due to errors such as pushing yourself too hard or not appropriately warming up or cooling down. The second is connected to biomechanics and can include a range of conditions including asymmetry in one limb, the angle of the knee, position of the foot or a gluteal dysfunction.

Symptoms of Runner’s Knee

Like other knee injuries, pain is the most common symptoms. However, there is a misconception that it is caused by the tightening of the iliotibial band, however, it is usually the inflammation caused by the rubbing of the band against the bone that causes pain for most people.

It is important that you make an appointment with your GP and have the injury fully diagnosed as the condition is similar to patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), which requires different treatment.

Treatment

One of the mistakes that many people who suffer from runner’s knee make is to keep exercising as they think they can ‘shake off’ the injury. However, the longer it is left, the harder it can be to treat.

Minor cases of runner’s knee will require a foam roller to help reduce tightness in the iliotibial band, but most cases require more extensive treatment involving physiotherapy. Each plan is tailored to your requirements and will include suitable exercises and suggestions to alter your current training plan.

If physiotherapy doesn’t work, you may be given a steroid injection instead. This is an injection into the sack of fluid (bursa) that sits behind the iliotibial band, preventing friction. To read more about steroid treatment, click here.

Preventing further injury

The main motive of runner’s knee treatment is to adjust the way you are currently exercising. A physiotherapist will look at the way you are currently running to see if you are placing unnecessary pressure on the knees. Following these instructions will reduce the chances of further injury.

Your physiotherapist will also advise you to stop training to allow the inflammation to go down - it’s important that you do as you can lengthen your overall recovery time.

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