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.
Running is a popular activity that can help maintain or improve your cardiovascular fitness and in some cases help you lose weight. There are many different reasons to run but often there is a goal set that may include 5Km, 10Km, half marathon, or full marathon.
When training for longer runs including 10km, half and full marathons it is important to remember that the training schedule should take place over long periods of time to allow your muscles and joints to accommodate for the increased strain that will be placed on them during the long run. As a physiotherapist, I treat many runners with all sorts of injuries. Some of the most common injuries include plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, muscle strains, and Iliotibial band friction syndrome (IT band syndrome).
IT band syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that occurs when the iliotibial band glides over the lateral femoral condyle on the outside part of the knee. The iliotibial band is the thick band that runs from the outside of the hip down to the outside of the knee. It is a common injury for long distance runners (20-40 miles/week) but is not limited to only long distance runners. Running on various terrains can increase the risk of developing this condition. Up and down hills, graded slopes, and cambered roads have all been shown to increase the risk. This syndrome may also be found in other athletes or weekend warriors such as cyclists, weight lifters, and participants in jumping sports.
With IT band syndrome there is rarely a history of trauma. Patients will often complain of knee pain that may be difficult to localize and usually increases with repetitive motions like running. The symptoms usually get worse with changes in training surfaces, increasing mileage, or training on crowned roads.
Studies have found that long distance runners with IT band syndrome have weaker hip abductor and glut muscles on the involved leg compared to the uninvolved leg. The hip abductor muscles are located on the outside part of the hip and help prevent the leg from moving towards the centre of the body. It is also noted that fatigued runners are more prone to having their hip adduct (move towards the centre) and internally rotate (leg turns inwards) which causes more friction on the iliotibial band and therefore the symptoms get worse.
The management of IT band syndrome usually includes: 1) activity modification (usually decreasing mileage). 2) New running shoes. Shoes should be replaced about every 500km. 3) Heat or ice. 4) Stretching the IT band. 5) Strengthening the hip abductors and glut muscles.
If you are interested in pursuing long distance running you should: 1) follow a certified training schedule. 2) Make sure the shoes you are wearing are the right shoes for you. 3) Increase your mileage slowly to allow your body to accommodate for the increased strain. 4) Hit the gym – muscle weakness can cause problems down the road. 5) Go in for an assessment with a health care professional if you start to experience aches and pains that aren’t going away.