What is IT Band Syndrome?
The IT band (iliotibial band) is the name for the connective tissue that runs along the outer thigh from the hip to the knee. The IT band runs over top of these major joints, making it susceptible to friction and injury.
While the IT band is important for stabilizing the structures of the leg during exercise, it can also become inflamed or irritated as it crosses over the protruding bony structures of the knee. This irritation and inflammation can lead to pain during exercise and, for those who work out regularly, may become a chronic issue. This recurrent injury can be described as iliotibial band syndrome or ITBS.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
ITBS is often associated with runners because the repetitive movements of runners can lead to irritation of the IT band. Because the IT band crosses over the knee and is attached at the top of the shin, runners with ITBS may complain of pain at the knee. If the pain is ignored and the athlete chooses to continue training without addressing the issue, they may cause further damage to the brusa that allows the IT band to have smooth movement and, over time, this could lead to a decreased range of motion.
While anatomy can play a part in the likelihood of a person to develop IBTS, the biggest factor is training technique. If a person repeatedly favors one leg, or trains on an uneven surface or machine that favors one leg, this can lead to friction and wear on the IT band. This could translate to mean that running in sneakers that are worn down in an uneven pattern, sitting on a bicycle with poor form, or constantly running on hills or uneven terrain in the same pattern day after day could contribute to ITBS.
Overpronation, typically caused by a misalignment at the ankle, can lead to uneven wear in running shoes. Wearing a pair of insoles that focus on correcting alignment can help keep the ankle in a neutral position which can have a positive effect on the entire kinetic chain from the ankle to the knee and up through the spine.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome Symptoms
A feeling of popping at the knee caused by the movement of the band is common but this in itself is not much cause for concern. If this feeling is accompanied by pain at the side of the knee or tingling when the foot strikes the ground, this may be a sign of ITBS. The pain can also be felt in other places along the IT band, even through the hip.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome Treatment
ITBS treatment can be broken into two categories: at-home treatment and professional treatment. Treatments you can try at home include RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), stretching, using foam rollers, and over the counter pain medication such as ibuprofen. If these treatments do not improve your condition it may be time to seek professional intervention. A physical therapist may recommend exercises and stretches, ultrasound therapy, or even a corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation. If the physical therapist determines that an uneven gait is the cause of your ITBS, they may suggest adding shoe insoles that correct your misalignment.