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What is IT Band Syndrome and how and your treat it?

Categories: Exercise, Injury

I'm going to go through what IT band syndrome is, you might know it as your iliotibial band, it can be shortened to IT band, ITB syndrome, ITBS. It’s a common over use injury that leads to a thickening of the connective tissue that runs from your hip to your knee. And as that thickens, that causes the tightness, tensions and inflammation within that area, which then leads to the pain in your knee. Your IT band helps to stabilize your knee joint, it stops that rotational movement happening. When it gets weakened, that's when it becomes painful.

You'll find that you'll get pain on the outside of your knee and doesn't usually cause any swelling. If you have found you've got some swelling in your knee, there's usually another cause to it, go see your GP and see what else might be going on there.

As it’s an overuse injury it affects seasoned runners as much as it affects beginners as well. The pain usually occurs within sort of the first five to ten minutes of your run and that won’t then go away. You may then notice a difference if it was a tear of the cartilage, you might also hear a clicking sensation. Whereas with IT band problems you wouldn't. If you're still unsure having an MRI scan or an X-ray would help because an MRI scan and would actually show the thickening of the connective tissue whereas an X-ray wouldn't.

The cause is for it is when your leg repeatedly turns inwards and is always putting pressure on the outside of your leg. This might come from worn shoes, constantly running down hill or you’re running on an angle as you’re running, you're doing too many miles or as loads of runners have weak glutes. It can affect people that run regularly as much as it can for people that are beginners. That's because when the tissue becomes inflamed from it either being pulled from the muscle up in your glutes, your TFL (tensor fascia lata) or where it's rubbing on the narrowing section as it comes into your knee.

It is more common within women as well. Purely because of the wider angle of their hips, looking at then the Q angle that the legs are then coming down on and that's again putting more pressure on your knees as you're running and your IT band is having to do more stabilization work.

Treatment for IT band syndrome.  If you have found you're getting paid in your knees and it is going down the outside of your leg, rest immediately. It's an overuse injury so it needs rest. Whether that's doing fewer miles or doing nothing at all. If you continue to keep running, that's when chronic pain will occur and it's harder to then come back from. Being able to cross train during that downtime is going to help. That could be doing something completely different, like yoga, swimming, going on the rowing machine or cycling, these exercise are going to help because that's going to take some of that pressure off. I'd always recommend getting in an element of weight training as well as well as doing some glute stretches and foam rolling. You can then go down the route of having some regular sports massages to help release some of the tension that's occurring within the muscles and releasing that pressure on the fascia down the outside of your leg.

If you've either gone for the sports massage or to a physio they may look at doing some ultrasound work or electrical stimulation in there too. Some preventative measures that you can take are training smartly. Splitting your week up by looking at the amount of runs that you'd be doing and the amount of gym work, including strength and conditioning you'd be doing. However you increase your mileage, do it slowly. That's going to eliminate some of the pressure that's being put on your knees. Incorporate regular foam rolling work into your training regime. When you're doing your strength and conditioning work, have a good element that is focusing on getting your glutes stronger and working on your core.

You can then also look down the route of having orthotics into your shoes. That's going to force your ankles and arches of your feet out to eliminate that element of over pronation that you might find as well. There's a few different things you can think about to prevent IT band syndrome. But if you ever feel any pain, stop, have a look back at what you're doing and if there is any sort of chronic pain and swelling within your knees, it's probably something else, so worth going to your GP and getting it checked out. If you've got any questions, drop me a message and I'll get back to you.