Relieve Pain on Outside of Leg Below Knee (6 Easy Solutions)

Do You Suffer From Outer Leg Pain Below The Knee?

Watch this video to learn what causes pain on the outside of the leg below the knee, plus 6 easy tips that you can use to relieve it.

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What Causes Pain on the Outside of the Leg Below the Knee?

Before we can jump into solutions, you first have to understand what causes pain on the outside of the leg below the knee.

There are several different causes, and which one it is depends on what you mean by "outside of the leg below the knee."

  • If you mean a localized pain on the outside of the leg just below the knee, that's one problem.
  • If you mean more of a nervy-type pain that radiates down the outside of the leg and possibly into your foot, that's a second problem.
  • And if you mean more of a muscular pain kind of on the front of your shin, that's a third problem.

Let's start with the first problem.

Localized Pain on the Outside of the Leg Below the Knee

If you have localized pain just below the knee, it's most likely due to either an IT band problem, or a joint problem.

Outer knee pain from IT band syndrome

Your IT band is a long tendon that runs down from your hip to your knee.  It actually goes just a little past your knee and attaches right in the front side of your shin into an area of known as Gerdy's tubercle.

IT Band

IT band syndrome is common cause of localized pain on the outside of the knee or just below it.

Additionally, you can also get localized pain just below the knee from your proximal tibiofibular joint.

The fibular head is part of the proximal tibiofibular joint, which means the joint between the two bones of the leg.

Proximal Tibiofibular joint can cause pain on outside of leg below knee.

You have a nerve that runs right behind the proximal tibiofibular joint called the common fibular nerve.  This can cause the second problem that we'll talk about in a moment:  radiating pain down the outside of the leg.

How do you relieve localized pain on the outside of the leg below the knee?

Such pain often results from from overpronation when walking or running.

Pronation basically means flattening your foot and turning inward.

When you pronate, your hip internally rotates.  Relative to your femur, your tibia externally rotates.

pronation and supination

That can create a joint dysfunction between your tibia and femur and/or tibia and fibular.

It can also cause your IT band to rub over the outside of your knee.

One way that you can undo that pronation is to stretch in the opposite direction.

Cross the sore leg over the other like a figure four.

Then take one hand and pull your shin toward you while pushing the end of your thigh away from you with the other hand.

tibiofemoral mobilization for pain on the outside of the knee

That creates a translation of your tibia inwards. It also creates a little bit of a rotation of your tibia inwards.

That can often relieve pain on the outside of the knee rather quickly.

However, you still want to fix the thing that caused the pain in the first place.

If the problem was overpronation when walking and running, you want to try to avoid that type of movement.

  • That may come from hitting slightly more on the outer side of your foot.
  • It may involve activating your glute muscles or butt muscles a little bit more
  • You may think about turning your knee outwards.
  • Or you might think about doming your arch.

strengthening exercise for ankle #2 - arch lift

 

All of those things really go together, and it's almost impossible to think about all of them at the same time.

However, usually one of the cues will work best for you.

So find the mental cue that works best for you. Then use that when you're walking.

How to relieve outer knee pain from a tibiofibular joint dysfunction

The second thing that can cause localized pain on the outside of your leg just below the knee is a joint dysfunction between your fibula.

That joint has a gliding type of motion.  Your muscles don't voluntarily produce motion there.

It's more of an accessory joint.

But when that joint is stuck or stiff, it can create some localized pain and may give you difficulty bending your knee all the way.

A good way to help self-treat a joint dysfunction at that tibiofibular joint is using a towel.

Roll up a towel and put it just behind your knee. Then pull your knee into as much bending or flexion as you can.

Tibiofibular mobilization for sciatica pain behind the knee

This uses the towel to mobilize the fibula forwards while you pull your tibia backwards.

Do this stretch for 1-2 minutes as needed.

Radiating Nerve Pain Down the Outside of the Leg

I mentioned before that there was a nerve that runs right behind that proximal tibiofibular joint, and that's called the common fibular nerve, or otherwise known as the common peroneal nerve.

sciatic nerve, tibial nerve, fibular nerve

That common fibular nerve then splits into two branches:

  1. Deep branch - deep inside the lower leg
  2. Superficial branch - outside of the lower leg

The superficial branch of the fibular nerve can cause radiating pain on the outside of the leg.

That can come from a proximal tibiofibular joint dysfunction.

If that's the problem, the technique that we just went through is a really good treatment for it.

However, another really common cause of outer leg pain below the knee is a lower back problem, particularly the L5 nerve root and/or the S1 nerve roots.

the L5 and/or S1 nerve roots can cause pain in the outside of leg below knee

The L5 nerve root refers pain down into the front outside of your leg and the S1 nerve root into the back outside of the leg.

If you have a nerve  pain or numbness and tingling in the outside of your leg or in the top of your foot, it is a good idea to rule out a lower back problem.

How to relieve pain on the outside of the leg from a lower back problem

That's a loaded question that is way beyond the scope of this post.

However, for most people over the age of 50, the problem is more likely from spinal stenosis. This is particularly true if it happens more when you're standing and walking and feels better when you're sitting down.

If  that's the case, just opening up the spaces in that L5-S1 joint by bending forwards is really helpful.

seated lumbar flexion stretch

When you bend forward, it opens up the spaces where the nerve roots leave your spine.

Additionally, if the pain is just on one side, leaning away from that side is often helpful as well.

IF you can combine leaning away along with a little bit of slight flexion of your spine, that often feels really good.

One way you can do that is to sit in a chair, reach one arm up in the air, and then lean away from the sore side.

seated quadratus lumborum stretch

Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.

Muscular Pain on the Front Outside of the Shin

The third problem is a muscle problem, a muscle known as your tibialis anterior, which is on the front outside of your shin.

tibialis anterior muscle can cause pain on the outside of the leg below the knee

The function of the tibialis anterior muscle is to pull your foot up like this so you don't drag your toes when you're walking or also to help keep your foot from slapping down when your foot hits the floor.

If you're getting a cramp or shin splint on this outside part of your shin, that's often due to the tibialis anterior working harder than it should.

One reason for that is heel striking too much when you're walking or running.

If you hit the ground with your heel first, your tibialis anterior has to control the slapping of your foot.

If you walk or run with more of a midfoot strike than a heel strike, that'll reduce how much slapping your tibialis anterior has to control.

Conclusion

To review, the three problems that we discussed in this video are localized pain on the outside of the leg just below the knee, which can come from an IT band problem or a joint dysfunction between your tibia and femur or tibia and fibula. The second problem is a nerve dysfunction, either the superficial branch of your fibular nerve or a lower back problem. And the third problem is a muscular problem with your tibialis anterior working too hard.

Need Help For Pain In The Outside Of Your Leg Below The Knee?

If you live in the St. Louis area and you need help for pain in your legs, we'd be happy to help you here at More 4 Life.

Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.

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