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Understanding and Overcoming Runner's Knee: Tips for Pain-Free Running

2 minutes

Almost every runner will complain about an injury or soreness at some point in their life. The most common of these complaints is the knee. Knees are crucial for humans to run. Without them, running wouldn’t not be possible as they act as a shock absorber and cushion the impact of the ground with each stride length. This crucial joint converts these impacting forces into energy and propulsion. In order for them to be efficient, they need stability and control so they don’t wear out prematurely.

So, when do problems occur?

They occur in the interconnected system of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, mensci, and patella. When these are unbalanced and not performing in synchronisation with each other, that’s when I see problems starting to arise. Many runners know that sharp pain on the outside of their knee. At first it only occurs when they are running and after a certain amount of kilometres. But sooner or later without seeking the correct rehabilitation and care for the dysfunction, it progresses to going up stairs or even when you go for a walk. "Runners Knee" or also known as ITB (Illiotibial band) Friction Syndrome.

Causes of Runner’s Knee

ITB Friction Syndrome is frequently caused by overuse of the fascia band on the outside of the leg which is called the ITB. This fibrous band is a thickened strip that becomes taut and rubs against the protruding bone edges of the femur. This fascia band is located along the length of the outside of the thigh and runs from the hip to the knee. It is associated with the lateral fascia line, as well as the spiral line when looking at Tomas Myers anatomy trains. Most of the time, this problem results from improper running technique, incorrect training methods, increasing training schedules too quickly, underdeveloped muscles or excessive forces from poor stability and motion control from the hips or ankles.

How we can help Runner’s Knee

The first step in helping your runner’s knee is to have a correct diagnosis. This normally requires you to be assessed by a qualified professional such as the chiropractors here at Neurohealth. Through a series of specialised tests, we can help find the exact root cause of why the problem has occurred for you and put you on the path to running pain-free again and getting on top of your knee problems. One area that needs to be closely looked at, is your running technique. Proper running technique isn’t about logging kilometre after kilometre and building up stamina. There are plenty of people that can run fast but have terrible technique and their longevity in the sport will be decreased due to the body's inability to protect itself and to deteriorate as the years go by.

A poor motor pattern can take countless hours to undo and correct. With today’s very supportive or cushioned shoes, well-paved roads and paths and the sedentary lifestyles we live, our bodies are losing the necessary muscle tension and strength in the areas that matter to perform a relatively simple movement such as running. Poor techniques such as over-striding is common as cushioned shoes allow the body to strike with the heel and we think sometimes the longer strides we take, the faster we will go.

  • First, you must know what type of running technique you have. If you know how you run, you can work on your weak areas and try to enhance them. In today’s age it is so easy to utilise our phones and film a running session. This is a great way to find your style of running. Have a friend or setup a camera whilst you are on the treadmill. Visual cueing is much better than relying on verbal cues.

  • Try and run upright. Stretch yourself to your full height which can be called running tall. Maintaining your height helps you engage your core and shifts the pelvis into an upright position which helps reduce the torsion in the hips and the illiotibial band.

  • Optimise your coordination. This can be done by challenging yourself on trails and running cross-country through fields and woodland. This off road running requires more concentration as you need to focus on each step but also improves your overall body coordination and boosts your running motor skills.

  • Think about being light on your feet. This normally requires increasing your cadence and shortening your stride length. This alone can help remove the torsion and tension on the illiotibial band.

Don’t ignore the pain!

If you think you are developing runner’s knee, do not panic. The problem can be treated and corrected. The basic rule is to never ignore or just ‘get by’ with the pain. It is better to reduce your volume than pushing through the pain and injuring yourself further which means having a longer recovery time. The best thing to avoid an overuse injury is to regulate training. Make sure it is varied and that it utilises a clever combination of body coordination, agility, mobility and strength exercises to balance out the muscular imbalances that happen when you just solely run. This way, you can be maintain your running volume at pain free levels for many years to come.

If you have any questions or would like to be assessed to see if you gave runner’s knee call Neurohealth on 9905 9099 or email at

By Dr. Steve Cannon - Neurohealth

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