What Is IT Band Syndrome?
The IT (iliotibial) band is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of your leg. It starts at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shinbone just below the knee joint.
The IT band works with the muscles in your thigh to provide support to the outside of the knee joint.
Doctors diagnose IT band syndrome when the IT band becomes too tight. This causes friction at the top of your hip or near your knee and results in swelling and pain.
IT band syndrome relates to hip bursitis (also called greater trochanteric bursitis) because a tight IT band can inflame the bursa. The bursa is the fluid-filled sac around the hip.
IT band syndrome is one of the most common running injuries, affecting as many as 14% of runners. Most people have it on one side, but it can occur on both sides.
What causes IT band syndrome?
When you bend and straighten your knee, the IT band rubs over the thighbone. Doing this over and over can cause inflammation.
When the IT band becomes inflamed, it doesn't glide easily. This may prove painful.
Research has found that compression also can cause IT band syndrome. In other words, the IT band pushes on the tissue around it.
It's mostly activity itself that causes IT band irritation.
For instance, a motion like running causes repeated extending and bending in your knee. This motion stretches the band, which makes it become tight, and even swollen.
Though you can get IT band syndrome at any time, you're more likely to get it when starting a new exercise program.
What are the Risk Factors and Complications of IT Band Syndrome?
IT band syndrome risks
People at risk of IT band syndrome are those who suddenly increase their level of activity. This can include runners who increase their mileage.
Mechanical problems in your gait are also a main cause of IT band syndrome.
These include having:
- Flat feet.
- Uneven leg length.
- Bow legs.
IT band syndrome complications
IT band syndrome can cause pain or aching on the outer side of the knee.
Symptoms of IT band syndrome can occur in the middle or at the end of a run. The pain can become nearly unbearable during activity.
The earlier you seek treatment, the sooner you can get back to your normal routine.
Can You Prevent IT Band Syndrome?
You may prevent IT band syndrome (or stop it from getting worse) with exercises and stretches.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- Proper conditioning.
- Slow increase of activity.
- Warm-up and stretching prior to exercise.
- Wearing proper shoes for activity.
- Avoiding crowned surfaces or too much running around a track.
- Shortening the running stride.