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IT Band Syndrome

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In the past few articles, we have focused on the Big 5 conditions associated with running.  We have discussed plantar’s fasciitis and achilles tendonitis down in the foot.  This article is going to move up the leg and focus on a common ailment that affects the oustide of the knee.  It is iliotibial band friction syndrome (IT band syndrome).

The iliotibial band is a thick fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of your leg from the ilium (pelvic bone) down across the knee and attaches to the outside of the tibia (shin bone).  It is where the IT band crosses the knee that the symptoms and pain usually start.  The IT band gets rubbed back and forth over the outside of the leg bone and causes an irritation that leads to swelling, increased tightness and burning as you continue to run.  Once inflammed, you may experience popping and snapping when you bend your knee back and forth while running, walking, or cycling.

Some of the causes that lead to IT band syndrome is an abrupt increase of distance, inexperience running, descending stairs, poor foot support, pelvic and core weakness, tight muscles, leg length discrepancy, and running the same direction on a pitched surface.  Here are a few steps that you can take on your own to keep the pain under control.  Rest, ice before and after running, NSAIDs, avoid downhill running, make sure to change the direction that you run on pitched roads, stretch warm muscles, and purchase good, supportive running shoes.  Rolling back and forth on a foam roller along your lateral leg will help stretch your IT band.

If you are experiencing this lateral knee pain, it is important to find out exactly what the cause is, so you can return to running/playing as soon as possible.  That is where your doctor and physical therapist come in.  Physical therapists are trained to evaluate for all musculoskeletal conditions.  We can look at your foot posture and footwear, measure your leg length, check your pelvic and hip strength, and evaluate the biomechanics of your running stride.  After your evaluation, a physical therapist will give you a comprehensive plan for getting you back on your feet!

Stay tuned for Runner’s Knee next month!

Article written by Jeremy Kethley, PT

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Dr. Jeremy Kethley, PT, DPT
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