Iliotbial Band Syndrome, more commonly referred to as IT Band Syndrome, is a common overuse injury especially among runners or avid athletes. The injury involves inflammation in the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. The IT band attaches to your knee and helps stabilize and move the joint, and when it’s not working properly, moving your knee can be painful. Today, we take a closer look at the signs, symptoms and treatment options for injured IT bands.
Causes of IT Band Syndrome
As we mentioned above, IT Band Syndrome is an overuse injury, but it can occur during any activity in which your leg is repeatedly turned inward. Other causes of IT Band Syndrome include:
A pre-existing gait issue
Running in worn-out shoes
Running downhill or on banked surfaces
Too many track workouts in the same direction
Too many miles in too short a time.
The functional cause of IT Band Syndrome involves the ligament rubbing against bone. This rubbing leads to inflammation, which makes movement painful. Oftentimes the condition is more common in women as their hip position can lend itself to inward turned knees.
Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome
IT Band Syndrome affects the knee, so most athletes who are dealing with the issue mistakenly believe they are suffering from a knee injury. It’s possible that you are dealing with both a knee issue and IT Band Syndrome, but the easiest way to determine if you’re dealing with an IT Band issue is if you feel pain on the outside of your knee when it’s bent at a 45 degree angle.
If you believe you’re battling an IT Band problem, an MRI can help diagnose the issue. X-rays are usually ineffective, but an MRI can reveal thickening of the IT band, which is caused by inflammation.
Prevention and Treatment of IT Band Syndrome
Preventing IT Band Syndrome is pretty straightforward if you are aware of the above causes.
Don’t overdo your mileage.
Gradually build up to longer distances.
Invest in a good pair of running shoes, and regularly check your tread.
Run on a flat surface.
Don’t always run the same direction around a track.
Consider custom orthotics if you have a gait issue or your feet turn inward when you walk.
Even if you follow the above prevention tips, IT Band Syndrome may still occur. Should that happen, the first thing you’ll want to do is take a break from athletic activity. Give yourself a few days off from running, and when you return, do a few less miles. Trying to power through the pain will make the condition worse and can lead to chronic symptoms. Rest and decreased activity are the best ways to treat symptoms in the short term. That said, it doesn’t mean you still can’t find still find ways to exercises. Head to the pool, do some rowing or try cycling, as they’ll all put far less impact on your knees.
If symptoms still haven’t resolved after several weeks, and you’ve been following the above guidelines, set up a consultation with a foot specialist. They’ll be able to look at the dynamics of your legs and feet and determine the root cause. If your doctor believes the inflammation is unlikely to resolve with conservative treatment, they may recommend a cortisone injection or mobilization surgery, but those cases are rare.