IT Band Syndrome Slowing You Down?

IT band syndrome can be quite burdensome. Not just for athletes, the soreness and pain accompanying this condition can plague even the most casual of walkers. If you’re one of the 25% of adults experiencing a lingering pain in your knee, along the outside of your thigh, or in your hip joint, there’s a chance IT band syndrome could be the cause.

So what is IT band syndrome and how can you know if it’s the cause of your pain? This resource will provide the answers to these questions. Let’s start with a brief look at the IT band.

About the IT Band

To understand what IT band syndrome is, we must first answer the question, what is the IT band? The iliotibial band (IT band) is a sheet of elastic tissue spanning from just above the hip to just below the knee. This tissue is known as fascia and is similar to the tissue that makes up tendons – fascia is made up of sheets while tendons are more rope-like. Fascia is “a sheath that encloses muscles, connects muscles to bone, and compartmentalizes muscles that serve a similar function.” (TheHarvardGazette) The IT band is the largest piece of fascia in the human body.

The general understanding of the function of the IT band is that it works with the muscles in your thigh to provide support to the outside of the knee joint and helps to stabilize the hip during common movements like walking and running. Research has shown, however, that stability and support may not be its primary function but rather, energy storage.

According to Carolyn End Ph.D., a leading expert on the functions of the IT band, the IT band acts as a spring to aid in locomotion. “One part of the IT band stretches as the limb swings backward, storing elastic energy. That stored energy is then released as the leg swings forward during a stride, potentially resulting in energy savings.” (TheHarvardGazette)

What is IT Band Syndrome?

IT band syndrome occurs when the IT band becomes tight and repeatedly rubs against the hip bone, thigh bone, and knee. Commonly, IT band syndrome is the result of hip bursitis, the swelling of the fluid-filled sac around the hip joint that protects and lubricates the joint.

IT band syndrome occurs with activity such as running. As the knee extends, flexes, and then extends again, a tight IT band will rub against the bones causing irritation and inflammation of the band itself. An inflamed IT band doesn’t glide as easily during movement and causes pain in the knee and hip joints and along the thigh bone.

Naturally, IT band syndrome is most common in runners, specifically long-distance runners – accounting for about 12% of running injuries. Mechanical imperfections in gait such as flat feet, uneven leg length, and bowed legs can also cause this irritation of the IT band.

Common Treatments for IT Band Syndrome

The best treatment for IT band syndrome is preventative measures such as proper exercises and stretches. Here are some tips to prevent an irritated IT band and even prevent it from getting worse:

  • Proper conditioning.
  • Slow increase of activity.
  • Warming 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.

Treatment for IT band syndrome will rarely involve surgery. Rather, your physician or specialist will likely create an exercise plan aimed at strengthening your outside leg muscles and hip abductors, and relieving inflammation and pain.

Find Relief with OCR

IT band syndrome can be quite burdensome, but it doesn’t have to be. Our team of expert physicians at the Orthopaedic Center of the Rockies specialize in hip and knee disorders and treatment and are committed to getting you back to doing the motions you love. Our motion specialists are passionate about helping patients of all ages to accelerate treatment and recovery. Click the button below to schedule an appointment today!

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