Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), also known as IT Band Syndrome, is a common sports injury among endurance athletes, mainly caused by overuse. This health problem manifests itself with an irritation of the IT band, which causes stinging pain on the outside of the knee. It usually occurs in long distance runners or biking enthusiast. You don’t need to be a professional athlete to suffer from IT Band Syndrome. Everyday sports enthusiast are also vulnerable to this type of injury. The good news is that, ITBS can be prevented by understanding the injury, knowing its main causes and taking some preventative measures.
Overuse: The most common cause for IT Band Syndrome is overuse. This means that usually, the injury takes time to develop but it can be triggered by a training session gone to extreme. For example, an increase in mileage for runners, or a sudden change in the type of terrain used for training (i.e: steeper hill).
Incorrect Running Habits: This cause is common in sedentary people, or to individuals that never fancied practicing sports, but a healthy change of lifestyle sends them to a daily jog around the park. It can happen in many cases that the sufferer is not having a correct running motion, which leads to increased stress on the knees. Sometimes minor adjustments in the way you run can make a crucial difference between getting hurt and remaining injury free. I, also need to add that running with knees towards the inside increases the risk of wearing down the IT bands. This is why I recommend you to try to correct knock knees if you suffer from this condition.
Weak Leg Muscles: The knee is strongly supported by the tights, while the gluteal and hip muscles have also a crucial role in running. If these muscles are not trained and ready to sustain the prolonged running effort, will build additional stress on your knees and thus to a higher risk of IT Band inflammation.
Poor Running Shoes: Driving a car with a flat tire results in a bumpy ride, doesn’t it? As does running with improper or outworn shoes. Running shoes are specially designed to protect your legs during those endless repetitive motions, caused by each step. It’s crucial to use adequate footwear while performing sports activities. More, it’s as important to notice when your shoes have outdone their mileage and replace them. Outworn shoes can change your running dynamics, by forcing your foot to land in uncommon angles, which again, increases the stress on your knee.
Extra Pounds: now this is a particular cause, because it affects only overweight runners. However, extra pounds are the main stress factor of your knees. Imagine how your joints would feel like if you run with a backpack of 10 or 15 pounds. If you’re overweight and start running, take it slow and opt out inclines.
Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome
After learning the causes of ITBS, let’s take a closer look at the symptoms. A short anatomy check, with the help of the image nearby shows that the iliotibial band unfolds, on the outside of your leg, from the hip to the knee. Usually, the most stress and friction occurs in the knee area and this is pain is felt there. In the early stages tightness and slight pain are the first signs of the onset of an overuse injury. If the runner or biker continues his training, a sharp pain starts to spike with every step. Symptoms, usually fade away until the next physical activity is resumed.
As immediate relief you can apply ice packs on the hurting area. However, be aware not to use the for more than 15 minutes without a break. Anti-inflammatory can also be ingested to get over the acute phase of the injury. Next, as in any other case of sports overuse injury, you need to change your workout routine. Take a break from running and start swimming, for example. This will help you to remain active until you fully recover from ITBS.
ITBS Prevention Tips
Before, returning to running or biking, after this knee injury, it’s recommended to perform a leg strengthening exercise routine, and allow your hips and tights to sustain your knee. Once you had this health problem, it means that you are vulnerable to it so you need to learn how to protect your body from a relapse. Follow this tips and stay away from ITBS:
1. Warm-up: This goes as a rule of thumb for any physical activity. Do a 5 -10 minute warm-up before your run, biking session or any other sport that strains your joints. It’s recommended to loosen up your tights and the surrounding muscles. A stiff IT band is prone to rub against the exterior upper ending of the femur bone. Include various leg stretches and brief high knee as well as heel to buttocks warm-up runs.
2. Sportswear: as mentioned before, make sure that your outwear matches your activity. Avoid running in jeans or tight pants and most important keep an eye on your footwear.
3. Variation: Try not to run each day on the same path. Variate in order to modify the strain on your joints. Do note, that uphill running is considered most wearing for IT bands. Also, running on a track with sharp curves will also increase the risk of irritation.
4. Leg Strengthening: Tight, hips and gluteal muscles don’t have to be strengthen only during recovery. Include some leg strengthening exercises in your weekly workout routine, to maintain their tone and ongoing knee support.
5. Fatigue: Cancel your run if you had a rough day and feel fatigued. Tiredness can hurt your running dynamics and increases the risks of IT Band injury.