If you’re a runner, you’ve probably already heard of Iliotibial Band Syndrome and may have already experienced IT band knee pain yourself. ITBS is one of the most common overuse injuries among athletes out there but other people in general can be affected as well. ITBS occurs when the IT band, the ligament that stretches the down the outside of your leg from your hip to your shin, becomes tight or inflamed. Your IT band helps stabilize your knee and when the IT band isn’t working right, moving your knee can be difficult. ITBS can cause enough pain to completely sideline someone from any serious physical activity for weeks.
IT Band Knee Pain Symptoms
Because the most notable symptom typically associated with Iliotibial Band Syndrome is swelling and pain on the outside of the knee, a lot of people automatically assume that they’re dealing with some kind of knee injury. The best way to test if you have ITBS is to bend your knee 45 degrees. If something’s wrong with your IT band, you’ll feel pain on the outside of your knee. Occasionally, MRIs are used to confirm that you are indeed suffering from ITBS. If your doctor sees a thickening of the IT band this is usually enough to confirm the diagnosis.
IT Band Knee Pain Causes
Iliotibial Band Syndrome can be the result of any physical activity that causes you to turn your leg inward repeatedly. Running downhill or on banked surfaces, wearing worn out shoes, running too many track workouts, and just not getting enough rest between workouts can lead to ITBS. Unlike many other overuse injuries, ITBS can affect workout newbies and veterans alike. When the IT band gets near your knee, it narrows, and rubbing between the band and the bone can occur. If this happens, your IT band will become inflamed.
Also, ITBS is more common in women. Some women’s hips tilt in a way that causes their knees to turn in which results in a greater risk of developing ITBS.
Preventing IT Band Knee Pain
Here are some precautions you can take to prevent ITBS:
• Rest for a few days whenever you start feeling pain on the outside of your knee
• Make sure you warm-up and stretch well before every workout
• Wear good shoes – all the time
• Exercise on flat surfaces
• Try to avoid concrete surfaces when you’re working out
• Schedule an evaluation with your doctor if you’re a high risk for developing ITBS symptoms
Treating IT Band Knee Pain
If you’ve already started to notice IT band pain the best thing you can do is rest. If you don’t rest as soon as ITBS symptoms become apparent it can become a chronic problem and nobody wants that. However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend every day on the couch. As long as you avoid high impact activities like running – and things like stair climbing – you’ll be fine. In the meantime, stretch regularly and use ice and heat as needed while you rest.
Another option is to foam roll the muscles surrounding your knee. This has helped me a lot over the past few years. Here’s a video that will show you how to do this:
If your ITBS symptoms don’t get better after a couple of weeks seek help from a medical professional. You may need a little extra help getting back to 100%.