Wednesday, August 2, 2023
By: Rebecca Schumer, PT, DPT, MedStar Health
The IT Band, or the Iliotibial Band, is technically a tendon, and runs from the outside of your hip area down to the outside of your knee. It was previously thought that we could stretch this band, but that theory has been debunked given the amount of force that would be required to stretch such a strong structure. When this structure becomes painful, we typically call “IT Band Syndrome” or “ITB-S”.
It’s important to identify the WHY behind having pain in this area because that directs your treatment. There are some common causes that you can begin to identify in yourself to address before the ITB syndrome progresses as it’s commonly an overuse injury. ITB Syndrome could be related to glute weakness in muscles called your hip abductors which are mostly on the outsides of your hip that help stabilize your pelvis when we stand, walk, and run. If those muscles are weak or not supporting us well, our hips may drop to one side causing a chain reaction down the leg and potentially compromise the alignment of the leg when walking and running. This abnormal positioning of the leg can lead to pain in the area of the attachment of the ITB.
Pain with ITB-S is typically sharper and located on the outside of the knee. It’s more noticeable when going down hills, stairs, running long distances or when the heel strikes the ground.
So, what do you do then if you’re having pain along this band? If it’s more acute, then ice and rest may help initially, but then we need to address the WHY. The best way to reduce the tightness usually experienced on the band is to work on the structures that attach to it which include parts of our quadricep, hamstring, glutes, and tensor fascia latae muscles. Strengthening the muscles in the hip that are potentially weak is also imperative. We recommend working with a physical therapist who can help guide specific exercises catered to your needs and ensure proper form.
Ultimately, don’t ignore this pain as it’ll alter your running form and potentially lead to more time off the roads or trails. Let your coach or PT know what’s going on so we can get to the root cause and keep you running healthily!