IT Band Syndrome, Pain & Treatment - Hip & Knee - Rehab4Runners

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What is IT band syndrome and why does it cause pain in knees & hips?

IT Band Syndrome can be a painful problem and is one of the most common causes of knee pain in runners and cyclists, but it can pop up in any form of exercise involving squatting. The syndrome causes pain and inflammation in the tissues of the outer knee, if not corrected could  seriously decrease the range of movement in your knee. 

Symptoms of IT band pain

The main symptom of IT Band Syndrome is pain, I know that sounds fairly obvious but check to see if you have pain in any of these places. 

1.  If you feel pain on the outer side of your knee joint

2.  If you feel a pins and needle like sensation in your leg while exercising (running, walking, going up steps)

3. If the knee is swelling or tends to make a snapping or popping sound. 

4. If you experience shooting pain all the way from your knee to your hip. 

What is IT band syndrome?

IT Band Syndrome or Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse syndrome that affects the tissues surrounding the knee. The itiotibial band is a thick band of tissue that starts at the iliac crest in the pelvis, then runs down the outside part of the thigh, and crossed the knee to attach to the top part of the shinbone. 

The problem is when inflammation occurs the band creates friction against the bone. This can scar the bursa and causes pain and restricted movement of the joint. 

How did I injure my IT band?

There are many causes for the syndrome, it’s commonly found in athletes but you can be more prone to straining your knee due to your anatomy. For instance if you have a leg length discrepancy, bowed legs or an abnormal tilt of the pelvis, this can make you more prone to the syndrome. 

More often than not runners can get the syndrome through training errors, such as running on uneven terrain or even running down hill. The syndrome isn’t just prone for runner as it can effect cyclist, rowers, weight lifters (e.g. anything that involves excessive squatting.)

IT band treatment and stretches

There are quite a few ways to treat IT band syndrome, most people recover in a few weeks but it can some times take a few months. The key to healing is going to be patience.

IT band stretching is an important part of the healing cycle, it’s best to stretch at least three times a day if you want the band to heal well (no shirking get out those yoga mats). The main muscle you should focus on stretching is the ‘Tensor fascia latae muscle’as this is the muscle most affected by the band. 

Always remember the good old RICE technique. Rest Ice Compression Elevation. Ice is great to soothe inflammation. 

There is also anti inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen and naproxen that you get over the counter, I’d recommend first asking a health care profession about any side effects before going this route. 

Running again 

READY STEADY…. hold on a second. 

I’m sure you are all really eager to get back into the swing of things but the last thing you need is to start running again when you haven’t fully healed. Just because it doesn’t feel as bad as it did or the swelling has gone down, does not mean your IT band is fixed. 

Like most post injuries you have to ease yourself back into health. You should start off slow, maybe take a light jog for 10 minutes and then immediately ice your leg after and rest for three days. Then try this again and, if you still feel no pain, gently increase your time. 

You should only start doing this if you fell no pain, if you have increased your flexibility and strength, and also been able to go on a long walk without feeling discomfort. 

Finally 

As was mentioned earlier in the article, this is going to take time. The speed of recovery varies for each person, if the injury is only lightly strained then it’s obviously going to heal quicker than if it was more seriously strained. Still even with a mild case, this injury will put you out of action for a few week and if its a more serious case even longer. So it’s very important to only do light exercise and to keep stretching the to re-strengthen the knee.