Runners knee or Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS) is pain on the outside of the knee commonly brought on from running but can also happen from other sports and activities. I am currently experiencing ITB friction syndrome and wanted to share my experience (apparently us Myotherapist’s aren’t immune).

How I ended up with runners knee, a common scenario

Over the past few years I have tried running on and off, usually due to some event I had enthusiastically signed myself up for, and until this year the most I had ever run was about 5kms. In the past I had experienced back pain, ankle sprains/pain and pain on the inner part of the knee from running, you’d think I would have learnt my lesson and given up, but I really love the feeling I get from running; the sense of freedom, the time to myself to think through things that might have been bothering me, sometimes things I didn’t even know were bothering me! In short, I was determined to work through all these issues to continue my running habit.

Recently I was running over 10kms with ease, something I thought I’d never be able to do, and was feeling great, again a few aches and pains but nothing I couldn’t work through, until this…ITB friction syndrome… It has indeed set me back. But again, I am determined to fix the problem and get back to the longer km runs, especially as I have a 12km trail run for charity coming up in a week and a half!

When I first experienced the outside knee pain, I pushed through and thought nothing of it, I pulled up okay the first few times it happened. I got stuck into the usual suspect muscles with the foam roller and vowed to add more glute strengthening to my routine. I should have listened more to those initial warning bells… Easter Monday I went out for a casual 10km run, the knee pain came on around the 7km mark and this time it felt a little worse than the times before. I pushed on and made it back. By the time I had cooled down and started walking up the stairs to the house, I could hardly weight bear on it! This was my ‘oh’ moment of ‘oh no, what have I done!’ but then my logical brain kicked back in and I decided a) I can overcome this and b) I will be better and stronger for it! Over the next few days I did a bit of hobbling around, icing, foam rolling and stretching, got some treatment from a Myotherapist and a Osteopath and the initial pain cleared up pretty quickly. Now I can only run about 3km’s before the knee pain returns but I am determined to do that charity run!

So why did this happen?

Studies are inconclusive about exactly what causes ITBFS and about what is the best course of action to treat it but one thing they agree on is that runners who have experience ITBFS look very different when running compared to those who don’t experience it. Some of us let our hips drop, some of us let our thigh bone come inwards too much, some of us have knees that rotate inwards too much and some of us have feet that don’t roll through the rear foot properly. The first step in repairing runners knee is to determine which one of these biomechanical problems is occurring to you. In my case when I get tired my gait changes. I go from nice long strides, strong hips, strong core to short steps, rotating hips and knees and feet that don’t rotate properly, the works! Luckily they all stem back to weak glutes and weak lower abdominals for me. So without beating myself up too much, serves me right, because these have been ongoing weak muscles for me and I had slacked on my exercises, naughty naughty.

Where to from here?

Needless to say I have jumped into the clinical exercises head on. I am doing glute and lower abdominal exercises daily, in fact several times a day; I am doing Pilates exercises to target the smaller muscles around the hips and in the core; I am getting more regular body repair, myotherapy and osteopathy at the moment; I am stretching more in all my running muscles and I am doing shorter runs more often to keep my fitness up. I have ROCKTAPE on today in preparation for a run tomorrow to see if that will enable me to run further (fingers crossed) but ultimately I am prepared to taper back, build the strength I need and get back into it slowly, hopefully I will be running marathons by the end of the year! haha!

Other things to consider on your recovery journey

  1. It may be worthwhile considering cross training when you are recovering from an injury such as ITBFS. Swimming and riding can be pain free ways to continue to increase your cardiovascular fitness.
  2. Make sure you go to a Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist, Clinical Myotherapist, Clinical Pilates Instructor or Podiatrist to have your running gait assessed before doing a generic exercise program for runners knee.
  3. Check out your footwear, it may be a simple solution to getting rid of your pain quickly and easily, active feet have tredmills in store and they are trained podiatrists so they can look at your running style and fit you with the correct shoe.

Please feel free to share your stories below. It’s encouraging to hear other people who have been through the same thing and have gotten through injuries so we’d love to hear your story. If you need more information or need some advice please email [email protected]


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