Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) or the IT band syndrome is the pain in the knee caused because of the tightening or inflammation of IT band. Sounds too technical? This tightened IT band rubs against the knee causing pain. IT band extends from the side of the hips and goes up to the knee. The main function of IT band is to give stability to your knee especially while running, sprinting, mountaineering or any strenuous physical activity, which requires the strength of your knee. However, when the IT band is over worked due to excessive workout it causes muscle inflammation. Thus, when tightened IT band rubs against the side bone of the knee it causes pain. This is also called Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS).
The main symptom of IT band syndrome is pain in the knee or on the outer side of the thigh along the IT band. You might also notice some swelling along the thigh or on the side of the knee. However, many times you may take IT band syndrome for any other knee injury. The best way to find out if you are suffering from IT band syndrome is to bend your knees at an angle of about 45 degrees. If you experience some pain on the side of the knee not on the kneecap, you are suffering from IT band syndrome. Here are a few ways to get rid of it.
If you are suffering from IT band syndrome, taking rest is very important. Since IT band syndrome is caused by inflammation of the IT band, which rubs against the side of the knee bone. Therefore, until the IT band loosens up you would have to take rest so that the tightened IT band does not rub against the bone. Avoid any exercises, which require you to bend your knee inwards more than 30 degrees. This includes running, sprinting, climbing stairs or mountaineering amongst others. However, you can use cross trainer or do swimming but avoid breaststrokes while swimming. Give as much rest to the IT band as possible until it is loose again. IT band syndrome is typically caused by overuse of the muscle and the knee.
Stretching can be a good way to loosen up the IT band. You can use various stretching techniques to do this. Best would be to consult your gym instructor. The biggest challenge here might be that your gym instructor may not know what IT band syndrome is. In such a case just ask him to suggest you with some stretching exercise that can help you stretch the outer side of your thigh of your affected leg.
One of the most effective techniques is to use a foam roller or a tennis ball. Roll the thighs of your affected leg sideways over the foam roller or the tennis ball. Pay special attention to the part where it pains the most. Another possible technique is to stand straight and then cross your legs, keeping the affected leg behind. Now keep your body straight and stretch sideways in the opposite direction of the leg. Hold on to that position for a few seconds before you come back to the normal position. So if left leg is affected, stretch on your right. If you are doing it right you will feel the stretch on the outer side of your affected leg. If your other leg is also affected you can now repeat the same for that leg. You can also consider the option of going to a massage therapist. A massage therapist can soften the tissue by applying pressure on the tissue and the thigh. Ask a massage therapist to use some oils, which can fasten this process.
You might be thinking, how a shoe is related to IT band syndrome. Well, there is a deep relation. People with over pronation are prone to get IT band syndrome. If you are a professional runner, you are prone to excessive pronation. Pronation is a term to define the way your foot rolls when you run. When your foot rolls inside by about 5 percent, the weight is distributed evenly. However, if it rolls inward less than that then it is under pronation. If the foot rolls outwards, it is over pronation. Over pronation usually happens when you are flatfooted. So if you have are doing over pronation or under pronation you would need a shoe that supports your style of running. In addition, do not take long strides while running as it puts undue pressure on the IT band tissue.
Strengthen Hip Muscle
Researchers have said that one of the biggest reasons for IT band syndrome is weak hip muscle. When the hip muscle is weak, your movement during the running is not normal which causes the IT band to compensate and thus becoming hard over a period. So if you want to permanently solve the problem of IT band syndrome you should work to make your hip muscles stronger. There are various exercises that you can do which helps to strengthen your hip muscles.
Visit a doctor
If the pain due to IT band syndrome exceed more than 3 days, you must visit a doctor. A doctor can suggest you an MRI scan to find out the root cause of the problem. They might also give you cortisone injection. Last resort for a doctor would be surgery.