IT Band Syndrome

Its the time of year when its great to get back outdoors, and when many of us become more physically active again. As our bodies adjust to the increased activity, sometimes there are aches and pains that come along with it. One such problem that commonly occurs in the hip or knee is Iliotibial (or IT) Band Syndrome.
The IT band is a connective tissue that runs from the muscles in the hip, down the outer thigh to connect into the outside of the knee. When you increase your activity levels, particularly running or hiking, then the hip and thigh muscles are required to work harder and as they recover they may have that tight post-exercise feeling. Because these muscles connect directly into the IT band, more tightness in them will increase the tension of the IT band itself. As the IT Band travels down the outer thigh, it runs over two bony prominences – one on the outside of the hip, and the other on the outside of the knee. An increase in tension of the IT band can therefore cause increased friction as it rubs over the bone, which leads to inflammation and pain in the outer hip and/or knee region.
There are some common features that may predispose someone to encountering this problem. These include muscle imbalance, sudden increase in training, running or hiking up and down hills, type of foot wear, and running/ walking gait pattern.
Once the causative factors have been identified with the help of your physiotherapist, IT band syndrome can usually be managed well. Physiotherapists have an effective way of releasing the tension in the IT Band by using acupuncture needles combined with some massage techniques. As well as reducing IT Band tension and reducing the inflammation in the irritated tissue, specific strengthening of the muscles around the hip and knee is required to take some of the stress off the IT band. This will ensure that as you continue to hike or run, there is less friction on the IT Band as it moves over the underlying bone, and less friction means less pain.
So if pain in your hip or knee is stopping you from getting out there this spring, it may be a fixable case of IT Band syndrome.