Illiotibial Band Syndrome

A Possible Cause for Runners' Knee Pain

A male jogger with a sore muscle/ pain in his Quadriceps-muscle. Free copy space. XXL size image.
Jeannot Olivet/E+/Getty Images

Marked by a sharp, burning knee or hip pain, Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a very common running injury among runners. Most people feel the pain on the outside of their knee.

Cause: The illiotibial band (ITB) is a band of tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh -- from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee. It stabilizes the knee and hip during running. When the ITB becomes short, the band rubs too tightly on the bone.

The outside knee area can become inflamed or the band itself may become irritated, causing pain. Overtraining is the most common cause, but running on a banked surface, inadequate warm-up or cool-down, or certain physical abnormalities may also lead to ITBS.

Prevention: Like most running injuries, if you don't determine and treat the root cause of the injury, you're likely to suffer from ITBS again. If you've had it in the past, make sure that you're wearing the right running shoes for your feet and running gait.  It's also worth having a physical therapist do an assessment to determine any weak areas that may be causing the problem. Those who suffer from ITBS often have weakness in their hips. 

Try to incorporate regular strength training into your routine. Exercises such as single-leg balance moves, side leg lifts and clamshells are particularly beneficial for those prone to ITBS. Regular foam rolling of your IT band is also crucial to ITBS prevention.

Treatment: Give yourself plenty of rest, reduce your miles and ice your knee frequently to reduce the inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help also get the swelling down, but make sure you take them with food. You can keep running, but cut your run short as soon as you begin to feel any pain.

Cut back on hill work, and make sure you run on even surfaces.

If you're starting to notice the early signs of ITBS (ITB tightness and twinge at the outside of the knee) , you can prevent it from getting worse by consistently doing strength and flexibility work done 2 to 3 times a week can make all the difference. 

You may want to see a physical therapist for deep tissue massage or use a massage tool such as the Stick or foam roller. Try some leg-raise exercises to strengthen your hips and be conscientious about stretching your ITB and quads. Make sure you're stretching and rolling both legs, as some runners focus on the injured leg and then end up developing ITBS in the other leg.

Continue Reading