Knee and Outer Thigh Pain

Every Summer for the past three years I have joined a gym. This summer I've been running for about 10 mins for 6/7 days, for about 4 weeks when I got this pain in my thigh and knee.

I didn't go to the gym for a week, but I went today and it came back almost as soon as I started running.

It's constant pain, sort of like shearing pain, and it's worse than it was last week. I also got this pain behind the ankle on the opposite leg, but that went away within 5 minutes - I have a feeling it's to do with imbalance when running,

What could it be?

I understand that I need to rest it from running, but is it ok to carry on with my other exercise regime?

Answer by Dominique:

HI there,
Thanks for your question about your thigh and outer-knee pain. Although you can never be definitive in this kind of online Q&A, this very much sounds like Iliotibial Band Syndrome. That's a whole mouthful, reason why it is usually referred to as ITB.

The iliotibial band runs along the outside of the knee. The simplest way to explain how you get the pain is as follows: when you run, the iliotibial band scrapes over the bones in your knee. When this happens often enough, it becomes enflamed and you feel pain.

You can get ITB from some of the following things:

  • Too much running

  • Hill running

  • Shoe issues

  • It might be that your current running, even though it is only 10 minutes, is a little too much for you at the present time. Do you go all out on the treadmill? Do you crank it up to an incline? These could be reasons you have got the pain. I'll get into the treatment of ITB in a little while, but when you have healed again you need to consider a slower build-up or a run/walk program at easy pace. Use your running as a slow warm-up to the gym work at a pace just beyond walking.

    Treatment of any inflamed area starts with rest and ice. Rest, because you need to make sure you do not cause any extra pain and ice because you want to reduce the inflammation. Apply ice a number of times a day for 20 minutes at a time. General guidelines that are always provided are 20 minutes every 2 hrs. That's a lot and hard to fit in in your busy day. At any rate, it indicates that you can almost never do too much ice.

    Protec Iliotibial Band
    Click the picture

    A product that works well to support the iliotibial band is the Protec Iliotibial Band.

    If rest, ice and the Protec iliotibial band do not work, then there are alternatives available via cortisone injections or even surgery. The latter option is not without risks. For some people it works perfectly fine and they are very happy with the results. Others complain about having "floppy knees" after the surgery.

    Regarding the rest of your exercise regime: yes, definitely continue with other exercise options that do not put as much weight on your lower legs and knees. There is no reason why you can't do upper-body work or activities like swimming or bike riding, provided you do not experience the knee pain you described before.

    I hope this helps.
    Kind regards,

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