Knee pain is a common complaint in active individuals. However, it’s not always the actual knee joint that’s contributing to knee pain (confusing, I know). If you have knee pain that is presenting as a burning, achy sensation on the outside of the knee, especially following running, there is a good chance you are dealing with an IT Band issue… And you’ve been blaming your knee joint the whole time, poor knee.
What is it?
The iliotibial band (ITB) is, in essence, a long flat tendon that runs from the hip to the knee on the outside of the leg controlled by the hip muscles.
The IT Band’s main function is to provide stability to the knee and hip joint preventing dislocations during movement. Needless to say, the ITB gets a lot of action and that opens it up to overuse injuries. This is often a complaint of runners as the ITB can rub against the femur during activity and cause pain. But anything you do to increase tension of the IT Band can be a culprit of this overuse injury (squats, power lifting, hiking downhill, take your pick). Typical areas of pain when the ITB is affected are:
- Just lateral to the knee
- Along the outside of the thigh
- Around the hip joint
Symptoms of ITB syndrome are snapping or popping when bending the knees, pain at the knee, pain along the lateral thigh, localized swelling along the ITB itself, and sometimes a complaint of weakness at the knee is reported.
Who gets it?
Some common attributes of people with ITB syndrome are those with weak gluteal muscles or hip abductors, those that over pronate the foot while running or have a leg length discrepancy. Anytime the bio-mechanics of a certain movement are off -the chance for injury greatly increases.
What do to about it?
So, with ITB the name of the game is prevention. Foam rolling in particular is helpful, you can find some helpful tips on our previous blog, Roll. Smash. Repeat. Targeting glute med, TFL and the ITB are helpful. Roll around and over the spots of tenderness, focusing up and down stream from the main area of pain production. If you’re in pain, you’re exacerbating the area of irritation which is counterproductive. Kind of like poking a bruise, knock it off.
Let’s say you weren’t able to prevent pain in the ITB, rehab exercises are going to be your next step, and best course of action to resolve the issue. Since the soft tissues have been stressed and damaged it’s important to get them worked out and in functioning order again. Mobilizations of the ankle and hip will also help restore joint mobility so they can function properly thus taking extra stress off surrounding structures.
If treated early ITB syndrome takes about 3-4 weeks to resolve with treatment and some activity modifications. However, the longer an issue has been going on, untreated, the longer it takes to resolve. If you’re sidelined while treating an ITB injury, cross training will be beneficial in helping you maintain your fitness level.
Feel like you might have IT Band syndrome? Questions about a putting together a program to prevent ITB pain? We’d be happy to help and get you back to doing what you love.
Dr. Katie Clare, DC, CCSP, ART
Dauntless Sport & Spine Clinic
4510 W. 77th St, Edina, MN 55435