The IT band is a tricky thing. Located on the outside of the knee, it’s a small but mighty ligament that helps to stabilize and move the joint. You may not ever know it’s there, but once it starts acting up, it’s hard to ignore. IT band syndrome affects many runners and is one of the most common overuse injuries. It is mostly preventable and treatable, so identifying the problem and then taking care of is totally possible!
What is IT Band Syndrome?
Your Iliotibial (IT) band runs down the outside of your thigh and past your knee. This can become inflamed with it rubs repeatedly against the outside of the joint, causing tightness and pain around the knee. IT band syndrome is often referred to as Runner’s Knee, and is the second most common running injury. Bending or straightening the knee can aggravate it, and you can usually tell when IT band syndrome is setting in by trying to rotate the knee to a 45 degree angle. If it is painful, to do so, it’s mostly likely that pesky IT band acting up.
What causes it?
Any movement that repeatedly turns the knee inward can cause IT band syndrome. This includes running with improper form or with worn-out shoes, running on an uneven surface such as the edge of a road, or running in the same direction during track workouts over and over.
How to prevent IT band syndrome
Preventing IT band syndrome is easily done, simply by changing a few minute details when it comes to your run. First, it is important to thoroughly warm up prior to running! Try these dynamic stretches to loosen up your muscles before you begin your run! Further preventative measures include:
- Wearing the right pair of shoes for your gait to avoid over pronation
- Running on a flat surface so that both feet strike the ground on the same level, rather than one foot higher than the other
- Change directions repeatedly when doing track workouts or running a loop
- Work your booty. Weak glute muscles can contribute to IT band syndrome
How to treat IT band syndrome
But, what if you already have it, and that pain on the outside of your knee is really bugging you? The first step is to rest, as continuously using the muscle will only aggravate it more. In order to prevent the pain from becoming chronic, rest! During this rest time, other workouts are doable, but running or stair climbing is not recommended until the pain subsides for at least 3 days. Other treatments include:
- Stretching and foam rolling
- Getting a sports massage to loosen up the tight ligament
- Using an ice pack to calm down inflammation, or trying cryotherapy
If you are a runner, take measure to ensure that IT band syndrome doesn’t become a problem for you! Take care of your muscles and train smart. Invest in a good shoe that properly supports your gait by helping to keep your knees or ankles from turning in. Additionally, supplement your running routine with strengthening exercises.