What exactly is the iliotibial band? Is it a rock group? What kind of music do they play? Actually, the iliotibial band, also referred to as the IT band, is the thick band of fibrous tissue running along the outside of the leg, starting at the hip and running along the outer thigh. It attaches to the outside edge of the shin bone, also known as the tibia, just under the knee joint. The iliotibial band works in conjunction with the quadriceps, those strong muscles in your thighs, to give you stability on the outside of your knee as you move.
Iliotibia band syndrome, sometimes called IT band friction syndrome, causes pain on the outside of the knee and the lower thigh. Inflammation of the IT band is typically the culprit. This injury is seen frequently in runners or athletes who engage in running as part of their overall conditioning routine. When overused, the IT band, which normally acts as a stabilizer, can become irritated. If you are affected with IT band friction syndrome, you will probably notice pain on the outside of your knee or in your lower thigh. The pain can become greater when going down stairs or when you arise from a seated position.
IT band friction syndrome can afflict those runners who engage in repetitive running motions, such as running only one way around a track or on one side of a road that is crowned. As most roads are sloped, running on the same side of the road continually can cause the outside foot to be lower than the inside one.
Certain physical anomalies may contribute to IT band friction syndrome, such as having bowed legs or excessive pronation of the foot. If you have muscle tightness in your glutes or in your quadriceps, you may be at increased risk for any sort of IT band injury.
The most common form of treatment for this condition is to employ the methodology of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, also known as the R.I.C.E. method. Physical therapy may be recommended so that you can be taught the precise manner in which to run or to stretch and engage in exercises of flexibility. If you run a seemingly endless amount of miles each week, you may have to cut back on how far you run, at least temporarily. Certain anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful, as well. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any form of treatment for your injury.
If you are a runner and want to be proactive in preventing IT band friction syndrome, you can strengthen your external hip rotators by doing a one-leg squat or stretching the IT band to keep it from getting tight. You can even amaze the neighbors with your running prowess and run in a backwards direction so that you can correct muscle imbalance and reduce any extra pressure on your knees. Just be sure to keep an eye out over your shoulder! Also, mix up your running routine. Try running on a soft, level surface for a change or change the direction in which you run on the road. Or, if you are like me, mix up your running program with some swimming and cycling!
Fortunately, iliotibial friction band syndrome does not have to be a long-term problem. Just be proactive and be aware of any signs of pain or discomfort. Give yourself a break as needed!