Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Everything You Need To Know

Iliotibial Band Syndrome, sometimes referred to as IT band or ITBS is an injury common among runners that affects the tendon by the knee. If you think you are suffering from iliotibial band syndrome, this article can help you form a plan of action to combat the pain and restriction that this syndrome can bring to your life.

What is ITBS?

The IT band runs from your hip, across your thigh, to the outside of your knee and connects to the top of your tibia. When running your hip muscles work to stabilize your pelvis. As you run for long periods of time, these muscles get tired and your hips begin to drop side to side with each forward moving step. As this happens, your knee is forced inward and out of alignment with your foot. Running with your hips dipping side to side and your knee turning inward, your IT band becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes increasingly severe and recurrent pain in the thigh and knee.

Because ITBS is an inflammation induced pain, the pain will subside after a few hours or days of rest. Unfortunately this does not mean you are healed. The inflammation will occur again once you set out on your next run as soon as the hip muscles become fatigued.

Causes of ITBS

There can be many contributing factors to ITBS. The easiest to rule out are running in old shoes, down steep hills or extremely tight turns. If you are suffering from ITBS, rule out these factors first. If you find the pain is still recurring, the problem likely lies in the strength of your hip abductor and external rotator muscle. If these muscles aren't strong enough to endure long distance running, your hips will eventually start sagging during your runs. Once this begins to happen, the cycle repeats itself and the inflammation returns.

Correcting ITBS

The first step in correcting ITBS is limiting your running once fatigue sets in. This may mean cutting back your long distance running dramatically. If the IT band is continually inflamed, this will give it time to heal. While you are healing the inflammation you can replace your running with:

  • Stretching your hips, quadriceps, and gluteus medius
  • Strengthening your hip abductor, gluteus medius and rotator muscle
  • Water aerobics

Visiting with a sports medicine specialist (like Dr. Lisa M. Schoene) is the best way to set up a treatment plan. They will be able to assess the degree of your ITBS and show you precise ways to stretch and strengthen your leg.

Don't let IT band syndrome hold you back from running. If you are beginning to notice pain in your thigh and/or knee or have been running with this injury for quite some time, don't hesitate to meet with a doctor of sports medicine. They will be able to get you back on the road to running as quickly as possible.