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Why do I have pain on the outside of my knee? Should I stretch?

Pain on the outside of the knee is often a sign of IT band tension.

In most cases, outside (lateral) knee pain is a sign of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS).


The iliotibial band, or IT band for short, is a thick tendon which runs half the length of leg. It originates at the hip and inserts just below the knee at the top of the tibia.

The iliotibial band

Its primary function is to provide lateral strength and stability to the knee joint. It also plays an important role in both internal and external rotation of the hip, allowing the leg to turn inward and outward.

When we sit, walk, run, or bend the knee a lot, our iliotibial band rubs on a part of the femur called the lateral condyle. This small bony protrusion just below the femur is often where the source of pain begins, but may spread to other parts of the leg.

Some additional areas of pain are the outside calf, upper achilles/rear calf, lateral knee, lower hamstring, medial glute, and sometimes lower back - often mistaken as sciatica or low-back injury.

IT Band Syndrome is an overuse injury classified by lateral pain of the knee, typically reproduced at a knee angle of 30°. More severe cases may cause visible swelling in the area with pain that gets worse at the end of the day.

There are a few test we can do to determine what, why, and where we are experiencing pain. Having a partner help with these test will greatly increase the accuracy of the result.

Despite their creative names, these 3 test are great in assessing injury, as well as test a bit of lower body mobility. It would be in most everyones best interest to try these test regardless of injury status.

Additionally, if performed, all test should be completed on non-injured leg first to asses our normal baseline, and then again on the injured leg. Pain may tell us a lot, but the difference will tell us more.

Remember to perform all tests gently, as excessive force can lead to further injury. Positive results may suggest ITB tightness, which may require specific treatment or stretching exercises, which we will get to a bit later.


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