Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or IT Band Strain, is one of the most common overuse injuries experienced by runners and other athletes. IT occurs when the iliotibial band, which is the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps to stabilize and move this joint, but when it isn’t working properly, movement of the knee becomes painful. This type of pain can be severe enough to sideline an athlete for quite a long time.
Symptoms of IT band strain include swelling and pain on the outside of the knee, causing many to think they have suffered a knee injury. However, with IT band strain, if you bend your knee at a 45- degree angle than the pain will be experienced on the outside of your knee. No changes will show up on an X-Ray but if for some reason you were to have an MRI on your leg than a partial thickening of the band will show up, indicating inflammation. MRI use for muscle injuries is relatively rare, so it is best to be familiar with the symptoms of this type of injury.
IT band strain can occur from any type of activity that causes the leg to turn inward repeatedly. It is slightly more common among women, since women’s hips tilt differently from men and may cause their knees to turn in an inward direction. It affects seasoned runners as well as beginners.
You can try to prevent IT Band Strain by:
-Be careful not to wear worn out shoes. Replace shoes in a timely fashion!
-Avoid running downhill too much
-Alternate directions if you are running on a track
-Running too many miles. Slow down your training schedule if you are experiencing pain.
If you begin to experience pain, take a few days off running or decrease your mileage. This pain can become chronic if you do not give yourself a break. If you are backing off your mileage you can still cross-train by adding swimming or another gentle exercise to your workout routine.
If your pain continues, consider massage therapy for some relief and healing! A massage therapist trained in sports massage can help release tension in the muscle and fascia and stimulate the blood flow. If you are in extreme pain, wait at least 48 hours after running before seeking massage treatment and keep in mind that a very severe strain may need to be left alone for a week or more. Always communicate your symptoms and comfort level with your therapist whose aim is to make you feel better and restore motion.