Let’s start with the anatomy. The iliotibial (IT) band is a thick fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh. This is a tendon, meaning that it connects muscle fibers on the outside of your hip to the bone on the outside of your knee. The IT band is the longest and thickest tendon in your entire body. When the muscle fibers get tight the tendon pulls on the attachment to the bone and causes inflammation and pain, leading to what medical professionals label “Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome”.
IT Band Syndrome is common in runners, cyclists and even people who are only occasionally active. If you are having pain on the outside of your knee there is a good chance that you have IT Band Syndrome.
Quick Test: If you bend your knee to a 45 degree angle and feel pain/tightness on the outside of your knee you could have or be at risk for IT band syndrome.
IT band syndrome can be caused by many factors, including increased mileage for running or more than usual walking; running or walking repeatedly on banked or tilted surfaces; weakness in the hips, ankle, and/or foot. This is typically an overuse injury that can be alleviated by strengthening appropriate muscles in your hips and alleviating the irritation at the knee.
Ways to prevent IT band syndrome in walker and runners include:
- Walk/Run on flat, soft surfaces (ie. dirt paths)
- AVOID walking/running on concrete and tapered roads
- Walk/Run with a slightly wider stance; feet should NOT cross the mid-line
If you are having symptoms of IT band syndrome and need relief the first step is to decrease the inflammation by decreasing or changing your activity. If running hurts try biking, if biking hurts try swimming. Apply ice to the outside of your knee for 10-15 minutes after activity.
Once the inflammation has decreased then you need to strengthen other hip muscles to take the pressure off the IT band. Strengthening the gluteus medius muscle (your side butt muscle) will help to decrease the over use of your IT band muscle and decrease the tightness of your IT band. Here are a few of the top exercises for strengthening:
The first exercise the clam level 1, make sure to stay slightly forward on your side and do not roll backwards, you want to feel your side buttock muscle working and not the front hip working. These are endurance muscles so lots of repetitions (up to 100 repetitions) with no rest breaks. Level 2 is with both feet elevated off the floor but the exact same movement as level 1.
Using a device such as a foam roller to massage out the lateral (side) hip muscles (not necessarily the actual IT band) can be very beneficial in providing relief.
The #1 Best stretch to stretch out your IT band is what we call the “Pretzel stretch” See picture: Grab the foot of your top leg and bend your knee as if you are going to stretch your quadriceps muscle, then place the heel of your bottom foot on the top knee and gentle pull the top leg down to the floor. Keep the top leg pulling back behind your trunk. You should feel a stretch from the outside of your hip down to the outside of your knee.
If your pain persists or if you have further questions contact us for more information at 303-952-5053.
Remember your body changes daily so keep moving and keep stretching to become a better you!