Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS or IT band syndrome) is one of the most frustrating injuries for runners. Luckily, there are IT band syndrome treatment options out there to help you overcome the pain.
Your IT band is a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the outside of your hip to the outside of your knee. It helps to stabilise and move your knee joint, so when it isn’t working or when it becomes inflamed, you experience knee pain.
The pain typically occurs on the outside of your knee. Many runners mistake this pain for a knee injury.
One of the key differences between a knee injury and IT band pain is swelling. You won’t experience any noticeable swelling with IT band syndrome, whereas a knee injury usually causes swelling. If in doubt, I suggest you see your GP or a physio.
In this blog, I’d like to share information on IT band syndrome treatment, symptoms and exercises to help you with the pain and hopefully prevent it from happening in the future.
IT band syndrome treatment
What causes IT band syndrome?
IT band pain is a common overuse injury. Running too many miles is a common reason for this type of pain.
Running on surfaces that causes the leg to turn inwards is also a common cause of IT band syndrome. For example, running downhill or on banked surfaces.
Running in worn out shoes is also a common cause as they can cause the leg to roll inwards. Another major cause is weak glutes. Your glutes are one of the powerhouse muscles in running.
Located in your but, these muscles help to propel your leg forward and swing it back during the running movement.
How do I treat IT band syndrome?
As soon as you start to feel pain, stop running and rest your leg. When you get home, follow the RICE method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen may also be useful to treat the pain.
As with any running injury, the first point of call is rest and recovery. Lower your weekly mileage or, even better, stop running altogether. If you continue to run whilst still experiencing pain, you risk turning it into a chronic injury.
If you dislike the idea of not doing any exercise at all, you can look into doing cross training like swimming, cycling and rowing. These are great low impact activities that won’t place as much strain on your muscles and joints.
Be sure to check out my other posts on good injury prevention strategies for runners.
How do I prevent IT band syndrome?
The key to IT band syndrome treatment is putting things in place to stop it from occurring in the first place. As the age old saying goes, prevention is better than the cure.
According to a 2015 study, neuromuscular re-education, strengthening interventions and addressing contributing factors to IT band syndrome such as training errors, shoe wear, running surface and programme design were all utilised to treat IT band pain in two patients.
IT band syndrome is a common overuse injury, so if you regular experience issues, it may be a sign to change your training routine. You can still train consistently, but train smarter.
Remember to include a warm up before each run and don’t increase your mileage too quickly. A sudden increase in mileage is a common cause of IT band syndrome.
A regular stretching and foam rolling routine is also an integral part of IT band syndrome treatment. Foam rolling will loosen your IT band. Roll slowly from bottom of hip to top of knee along the outside of the leg to loosen up the muscles, fascia, and IT band.
Glute strengthening exercises are also key when treating and preventing IT band syndrome. As discussed above, your glutes play an important role to propel you forward and swing your leg bag.
Here’s one of my favourite glute strengthening exercises. Do 10 reps and three rounds with 1-2 minutes of rest in between each round.
10 jump squats
10 forward lunges
10 hip adduction/abduction with resistance band
10 clams with resistance band
10 single leg deadlifts
10 single left glute bridge
Try and include a glute strengthening workout into your training routine one to two times a week. It will go a long way to strengthen your glutes and make you a faster and stronger runner, and more importantly, help the recurrence of IT band.
Lastly, if your trainers are feeling a little worn, especially along the side of the sole, this is a sign to replace them. I suggest visiting a local running shop and telling them that you are in the market for a new pair of running shoes.
They probably get a lot of runners who experience IT band pain, so will be able to advise on the best running shoe for you.
Check out my post on how to choose the best running shoes for beginners for more tips and advice on finding the perfect pair of running shoes.