What is IT Band Syndrome?

IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that’s also sometimes referred to as ITBS or runner’s knee. This injury affects the iliotibial band, which is a band of soft tissue that runs from the outside of your hip to the outside of your knee. When the Iliotibial band gets overworked and irritated, it causes pain and inflammation of those areas, particularly on the outside of the knee.

What Causes IT Band Syndrome?

IT band syndrome may result from repetitive strain, poor muscle flexibility, and other mechanical issues in the body. These issues can cause the IT band to become too tight. The result is increased friction and irritation as the band of connective tissue rubs against the knee joint during activity.

It is a common injury that often arises following long-distance running, cycling, or even just frequent long walks.

There are also a number of other risk factors for IT band syndrome, including:

  • Anatomy issues such as: 
    • Bowed legs 
    • Leg-length discrepancy
    • Abnormal tilt of the pelvis
  • Improper physical training, such as:
    • Frequently running on uneven surfaces (like the slanted edge of a road)
    • Incorrect cycling posture, such as pedalling with the feet rotated inwards or “toe in”
  • Sports that involve lots of knee flexing, such as:
    • Rowing
    • Weightlifting with excessive squatting

Signs and Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome

Here are some of the common symptoms to help you identify your injury:

  • Pain on the outside of the knee
  • Knee swelling
  • A snapping or popping sound from the knee
  • Pain may start as stinging or needling sensation
  • Pain gradually progresses
  • Pain may radiate to the outer side of the thigh and hip

How is IT Band Syndrome Treated?

The treatments for IT band syndrome include:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physiotherapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery to cut away scarring and inflammation, or to lengthen the IT band

Physiotherapy for IT Band Syndrome

Physical therapy can offer an effective, non-invasive solution that can get you recovered from IT band syndrome quickly. At Activa Clinics, our physiotherapists can create a custom treatment plan for you. That plan can incorporate a range of therapies, such as:

  • Personalized exercise and stretching programs to improve leg strength and flexibility
  • Gait analysis (studying the way you move) to identify biomechanical issues
  • Custom made orthotics to accommodate gait issues and provide proper support
  • Recommendations and training on how to prevent future issues 
  • A range of related therapies to relieve pain and promote healing:

How to Prevent IT Band Syndrome

  • Warm-up and stretch properly before and after athletic activities.
  • When running on an indoor track, don’t always run in the same direction. (There are tracks that change directions on alternate days, and others have runners change direction every few minutes).
  • When running on the side of a banked road, don’t always run on the same side.
  • When cycling, pay attention to your pedaling technique and ensure your pedals and clips are set up properly (so they don’t force your feet to rotate inwards).

Book an Appointment

If you ignore IT band syndrome, it can progress to the point that pain prevents you from using stairs or even walking. So don’t hesitate to get your injury checked out. We can get you on the road to full recovery as soon as possible.

FAQ's

  • 1. Does IT band syndrome ever disappear?

    IT band syndrome never completely disappears. Once you have had it, there is a chance that you will experience the problem again, at some point. But, you can greatly reduce the chances of the next episode being debilitating simply by recognizing the early signs and taking the appropriate action. The best clinics are able to treat IT band syndrome as well as show you how to stop it from causing serious problems for you in the future.

  • 2. Is heat good for IT band pain?

    When administered in the right way, heat is good for IT band pain. It can be used in the latter stages of your recovery to help you to relax the muscles and stretch them out a little before you exercise. You can also use ice. But, again, you need to apply it at the right time and in the right way. It is best to seek advice from a physical therapist before treating your IT band pain with heat or ice.

  • 3. What does a tight IT band feel like?

    In the initial stages, a tight IT band feels like you have been stung by nettles. Or, like tiny needles are being pushed into the lateral side of your knee. Fairly quickly, that sensation is replaced by pain that gets gradually worse. You will be particularly aware of it every time your heel hits the ground. It gets worse slowly until you have difficulty climbing stairs, then walking. Fortunately, an experienced physical therapist can, over time, reverse the condition.