IT band syndrome is an all-too-familiar foe for regular distance runners and other highly active athletes. Unfortunately, this issue is more than just a painful nuisance – IT band syndrome can cause further musculoskeletal issues and complications with the knee joint, shin, and hamstrings. Left unresolved, IT band syndrome can lead to excruciating pain and keep you from doing what you love.
Don’t let IT band syndrome take you out of the game. Learn more about IT band syndrome and what you can do to heal and prevent it.
What is the IT Band?
The IT band, more formally known as the iliotibial band, is the long stretch of strong, thick tendon that connects the ilium (a prominent ridge on your hip bone) to the top portion of the tibia (the large bone of your lower leg), just below the knee. It runs the length of your outer leg and allows you to extend and bend your leg and is a key player when it comes to running, lunging, and jumping.
What is IT Band Syndrome?
While the IT band travels the entire length of the upper leg, IT band syndrome tends to affect mostly the area around the outer knee or portions of the thigh.
The knee joint makes up the junction of the femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone), and the patella (kneecap). The IT band extends over the entire knee joint to connect the hip bones to your lower leg. When the IT band is inflamed, the knee joint often shows the most signs of distress. Pain, burning, and aching in the knee are key signs of IT band syndrome.
IT Band Syndrome Symptoms
The most notable symptom of IT band syndrome is aching, burning pain that centers on the outside of the knee or spreads from the thigh to the hip. This pain usually worsens with movement. For runners, the pain is most noticeable with each strike of the foot on the ground but can linger on for hours after your workout.
What Causes IT Band Syndrome?
There is no clear cause of IT band syndrome. Most researchers believe it is caused by repetitive friction as the band moves over the knee joint and edges of the thighbone. This friction leads to inflammation in the area, and therefore compressed tissue, swelling, pain, and immobility.
Due to the repetitive strain on the IT band in running, this issue is commonly seen in long-distance runners, soccer players, rowers, skiers, cyclists, and other sports with a focus on lower body movement. IT band syndrome can also a common problem for new athletes or those who have recently ramped up their training or switched sports. No matter your sport, however, IT band syndrome is a common overstrain condition and it pays to take preventative measures.
Special Considerations for Long Distance Runners and Athletes
IT band syndrome can put a damper on your running schedule and training. Prevent IT band syndrome by paying extra attention to avoid these common issues:
- Running on uneven terrain
- Running with old or ill-fitting shoes
- Running downhill
- Run in cold weather
- Excessive daily running without rest days
IT Band Syndrome Recovery at the Muscle Doc Method
The Muscle Doc Method is dedicated to offering the best in therapeutic sports medicine for all athletes and active community members. Christopher Brenner offers a unique approach to healing sports injuries like IT band syndrome that focuses on rehabilitating the injury while providing a steady foundation for long-term health after healing.
The Muscle Doc Method Approach to Healing IT Band Syndrome
Sports acupuncture is a specialized field that blends sports medicine, athletic anatomy, and time-tested acupuncture technique to directly impact common conditions that athletes face. Acupuncture is key to helping restore the health of the IT band and relieve pain.
Cupping can be used for a wide range of pain conditions to help encourage healthy blood flow and expedite the healing process.
Graston technique is a specialized therapy that relieves pain and reduces knots, bands, and tension in muscles and tendons.
Depending on your unique condition, Christopher may choose to use additional therapies like medical massage, trigger point therapy, or heat to help heal and soothe the IT band.
IT Band Stretches
Specific IT band stretches will be taught and prescribed to help you relieve pain, regain power, and improve circulation in your thigh, knee, and lower leg. Stretches are a crucial part of both recovery from IT band syndrome and prevention
IT Band Exercises
Christopher recommends a variety of IT band-specific exercises to complete as we work back up to your desired training level. This helps continue the healing process and prevents re-injury.
Preventing IT Band Syndrome
Prevention is the best medicine. For long-distance runners and other athletes who are at risk for developing IT band syndrome, the best course of action is to modify your training schedule to protect your IT band and knee, regularly perform IT band stretches and exercises, and use holistic therapies to maintain the health, structure, and form of your IT band.
General lifestyle and training tips for IT band syndrome prevention include:
- Run on even, safe surfaces.
- Replace old running shoes and get fitted properly.
- Reduce training if you start to notice knee pain.
- Gradually increase your activity levels to avoid overstrain on your IT band.
- Stretch your thighs and hamstrings before and after each workout.
- Maintain a regular sports therapy plan to address overuse and wear before it becomes an injury.
If you’re already experiencing IT band syndrome, limit the activities that worsen your pain until you can receive a comprehensive intake at the Muscle Doc Method. After your assessment and treatment, we can create a healthy action plan to work back to your desired training schedule and beyond.