Iliotibial Band Syndrome

aka IT Band Syndrome aka Runner’s Knee

Runner’s Often Develop This Condition

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is also known as IT Band syndrome or runner’s knee because it is a condition most frequently seen in runners. The pain comes on at a certain point in a run and gradually gets worse until you stop running. The syndrome is aggravated by running, especially downhill, and it can also be aggravated by cycling. Some people with runner’s knee also experience a snapping or popping sound at the knee in addition to the pain.

What is it?

IT Band Syndrome is an overuse injury of the connective tissues on the outer thigh and knee. Pain occurs because the long tendon which runs down the outside thigh to the knee (the iliotibial band) rubs against the outside of the knee joint and causes friction and inflammation. If you have iliotibial band syndrome you will experience pain on the outside of the knee, especially when the heel strikes the ground during running. The syndrome is called runner’s knee, but pain may also be felt during other physical activities or movements such as walking, kneeling, squatting, stair climbing, sitting down, or standing up. There is another syndrome termed runner’s knee in which a throbbing or aching pain is experienced behind the kneecap. If this is where the pain is felt, the condition is called patellofemoral pain syndrome.

What Causes it?

There are certain running conditions that can cause IT Band Syndrome, as well as structural and gait-related causes. Extensive running on hills or running on roads that are cambered can lead to the development of runner’s knee. Those who over-pronate have poor foot biomechanics may also develop the condition. Leg length discrepancy, weak hip or thigh muscles, and a naturally tight or wide IT band, overuse, and inadequate stretching are other possible causes.

What Can I do?

Because this is most commonly an overuse injury, RICE treatment is usually the best to start with. This includes Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Stay off of your feet as much as possible for 1 or 2 days and take a longer break from the activity that may be causing the pain or soreness. The tendon will heal faster if you can avoid putting strain on it. Apply an ice pack for 10 to 20 minutes at least 3 times daily. This should help to reduce the swelling. Use a compression bandage. Elevate your feet while applying ice and any time that you are sitting or lying down. Keeping your feet above the level of your heart will help to minimize the swelling. Initially pain-relieving medication such as ibuprofen may be helpful to reduce pain and swelling, but long-term use is not likely to benefit. Physical therapy may be needed because stretching, strengthening, and foam roller exercises can be a very important part of helping the iliotibial band heal. A sports massage can also assist in relieving the pain and encourage healing. Beginning activity again should be gradual and not aggressive, especially the activity that caused the pain in the first place. If the injury developed because of a gait problem, it is important to wear supportive shoes and orthotics so prevent the problem from developing again.

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