Lateral knee pain occurs on the outer side of the knee that typically presents itself gradually. Pain may take the form of a dull and persistent ache or it may present as a sharp and acute sensation, making it hard to move your leg in certain ways. It is most prevalent among runners and cyclists.
Lateral Knee Pain Causes
The most common causes of pain to the lateral knee area are Iliotibial Band Syndrome and a lateral collateral ligament sprain or a lateral meniscus tear. Some of the causes that may lead to one or more of these problems include:
- Long distance running.
- Using stairs, particularly going up stairs.
- Bike riding, hiking and weightlifting involving squat movements.
- A tear to the lateral meniscus or sprain of the lateral collateral ligament caused by direct trauma to the knee. This could be due to a fall, tackle, awkward or sudden twisting movement or blunt force to the knee.
- Osteoarthritis, resulting in wear and tear to the cartilage. Pain can increase during periods of inactivity, exercise and cold weather.
- An injury to the lumbar spine causing pressure on the sciatic nerve that radiates pain down into the leg and knee.
Symptoms or signs you have a lateral knee pain condition could include one or more of the following:
- Gradually increasing pain on the outside of the knee during running or other physical activity that may eventually force you to stop performing the exercise.
- Tenderness on the outside of the knee joint and along the joint line. This may increase over time or can be sudden if it is due to traumatic injury to the knee.
- Increased pain when using stairs.
- Swelling of the knee following an injury, usually within 48 hours.
- Difficulty straightening the affected leg without pain and discomfort.
- Unusual sounds from the knee during movement such as popping, clicking or grinding.
Visting an experienced podiatrist for treatrment will likely result in them assessing your health and exercise history and conducting a physical examination to diagnose lateral knee pain. A physical examination may involve pressing and applying pressure to the area to assess discomfort. A range of movements and maneuvers may be used to check the integrity of the knee joint. An X-ray or MRI scan may be recommended.
Lateral Knee Pain Treatment
It is highly important to treat not only the symptoms of lateral knee pain but the underlying cause as well.
A good podiatrist will likely suggest one or more of the following treatment methods:
- A period of rest from exercise or activity that causes pain in the area. Undertake further treatment options before returning to the activity.
- Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling.
- Applying ice to the area after exercise or movement that causes pain.
- Strengthening of the leg muscles. Muscle weakness is a major cause of instability in the knee. Leg strength exercises will help to improve knee function and are beneficial to all cases of knee pain.
- A knee brace can be useful for tears or arthritis in the knee. It will help protect the area, reduce pain and swelling and keep heat in the area.
- Kinetic Orthotics can be prescribed to correct abnormalities or imbalances in the feet and legs.
To prevent lateral knee pain, you can take one or more of the following options suggested by a podatrist at Dan Everson Podiatry:
- Keep your body weight within a target range for your age group. This can help reduce the stress and force applied to the knees and associated ligaments and tendons during movement.
- Stay active and agile. Many knee problems are caused due to an imbalance, weakness or stiffness in the leg muscles.
- Wearing a protective device such as a kneepad or brace when undertaking activities that could lead to knee trauma or damage.
- Kinetic Orthotics may be helpful by optimising the way force is transferred as you move.
- Seek advice from your podiatrist on the most appropriate and best fitting footwear for your lifestyle.
- Make sure athletic shoes are replaced at least every six months.