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Lateral Knee Pain: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The pain that occurs outside your knee is known as lateral knee pain. The pain may be gradual or sudden in case of an injury. Therefore, lateral knee pain has different symptoms.

A general ache or specific sharp pain characterizes the outer knee pain; it may restrict knee movement.

As much as specific activities can lead to outer knee pain, at times, you may not connect the pain to particular activities.

It is very rare to experience pain on outer side of the knee. But in case you feel any pain, chances are very high you had an injury.

In most cases, these injuries will affect the outside structures of your knees, leading to pain.

What are the Types/Causes of Outer Knee Pain?

Lateral knee pain may occur due to various conditions.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

This type of knee injury tears or overstretches a ligament that causes pain on outside of knee radiating down leg. You may experience a complete or partial tear.

lateral knee ligaments

You may feel sudden pain if you rotate or twist your knee. You’re more likely to experience this if you suddenly change, stop, or slow down. Most sportspeople experience it often.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

When a band of connective tissue rubs on the outside of your knee, it will lead to iliotibial band syndrome development.

The lateral knee has a thick band of fibrous tissue known as the iliotibial band, and they usually run from your hip to below your knee on the outer side of the leg.

You will notice an increased soreness and inflammation from your thigh bone to your knee if there is a continuous and vigorous bending and straightening of the leg.

Runners and cyclists are more likely to experience this type of pain.

Osteoarthritis of the Knee

Osteoarthritis is the leading monster of most knee pains. Pain on the outer side of the knee occurs when the shiny and smooth cartilage of your knee joints becomes rough and worn out.

However, most studies show that people above the age of 50 are more likely affected. There is an increased chance of suffering from it when you hit old age.

Lateral Cartilage Meniscal Injury

Meniscal injury is highly associated with meniscal cartilages damage inside your knee. The meniscal cartilages are essential as shock absorbers and can easily tear when you twist your knee while the foot is on the ground.

Sportspeople have a high chance of experiencing this type of injury due to the constant change of direction in most sports- such as soccer and basketball.

Besides, people who perform manual or construction labor can experience this kind of pain. Additionally, old age contributes to meniscus injury because of wear and tear.

Lateral Collateral Ligament Injury

A ligament is thick fibrous tissue that joins two bones together. And the collateral ligament runs down on the outer side of the knee.

Blows inside your knees lead to collateral ligament injury. The impact stretches from the lateral side (outside) of your knee and damages the ligament.

Symptoms of Lateral Knee Pain

Different injuries present different symptoms of outer knee pain. You may either experience sharp pain in a specific area or a dull and painful knee.

Besides, your knee may get stuck in one position (click or lock), leading to pain.

Below are symptoms for the different types of lateral knee pain.

You may experience pain on the outer side of your knee if you have a lateral collateral ligament injury. The collateral ligament protects and gives your knee stability. One of the noticeable symptoms is feeling like your knee is giving way.

literal knee pain

Also, you will experience pins and needles in your foot or swelling around your foot. This pain becomes unbearable if you run or walk on uneven ground.

Besides your knee feeling stiffness, lock or click, you will experience pain in case of meniscus cartilage injury.

Other symptoms include gradual and painful swelling making it difficult to strengthen your leg. The pain and swelling may be on and off.

In case you have osteoarthritis, symptoms may be severe pain when you bear weight, and once you get to rest, the knee will feel much better.

Besides knee stiffness, other symptoms include the inability to move after sitting for a while or waking up in the morning. You will feel some sort of relief when your day gets busy, and you’re moving around. Additionally, you may notice knee swelling.

Iliotibial band syndrome presents sharp spread pain below knee outside of leg or discomfort on a specific area.

Mild lateral knee pain may become noticeable after running a specific distance. And once you stop the activity, you will feel some relief.

In case of severe injury, you will experience difficulty in walking or sitting with your knee bend.

When dealing with anterior cruciate ligament injury, you may experience sudden pain accompanied by a pop sound. One may notice the knee swelling if there is internal bleeding and feel like your knee will die.

Treatment for Lateral Knee Pain

Overuse and poor training habits are the leading cause of lateral knee pain, especially when the pain is gradual. For instance, a sudden increase of workout intensity, adding of unusual heavy load can be a trigger for your knees. 

Moreover, you need to be careful when doing your practices. Uneven and poorly maintained grounds can lead to severe lateral knee pain. 

It causes lateral knee pain for long structural abnormalities, but if you have access to Exercise physiologists, they may help fix unhealthy habits.

A physiotherapist will ensure to work on different knee flexion exercises when treating the pain outside your knee. Using the correct form, a physiotherapist will increase the knee flexion and work on its range of motion. 

Besides, this will reduce the possibility of experiencing an injury and relieve lateral knee pain since you’ll have proper tools that will protect your knees from more damage.

For instance, besides increasing the range of knee flexion motion, your physiotherapist will apply pressure to the fibula and manually rotate the lower leg posterior.

After determining if the therapy is efficient, your physiotherapist can use a special tape to the posterior rotation of the fibula for 48 hours. Doing this will provide your knee with more range of flexion motions and allow your body to heal.

Take Away

Lateral knee pain affects people of all ages ranging from kids, athletes, and older people. Without proper treatment and enough rest, knee injuries may worsen, so a doctor needs to evaluate the pain on the outer side of the knee. 

Consider visiting an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in knee injuries for correct diagnosis and treatment.

Athletes recovering from injuries should try to run on flat ground and gradually build up the number of miles each week.

To prevent a repeat injury, ensure you take all the precautions seriously and stick to healthcare advice for a full recovery. 

Know someone with lateral knee pain? You can share this article with your family and friends.

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