ITB Syndrome - About This Common Running Injury

Avoiding ITB Syndrome

Strength and Flexibility Training to Prevent Injury

Spring is the season that many people start or resume their running and cycling programs. Unfortunately, it is also the season when many athletes experience new or recurring injuries. The good news is that most of these injuries can be managed or even prevented with an appropriate strength and flexibility routine.

What is the ITB?

A common complaint from runners is pain in the lateral knee and/or lateral hip.  Oddly enough, these two symptoms can have a common cause, which is tightness in the ITB.  The ITB (Ilio-Tibial Band) is a thick band of connective tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh.  It attaches to the pelvis (iliac crest), runs downward past the hip and the outside of the knee, and attaches to the upper shin (tibia).  Therefore, the ITB crosses both the hip and knee joints.

The ITB provides lateral stability to the hip and knee during movement.  Runners and cyclists are prone to tightness in their ITBs because of the tension placed on this structure during activity.  Hip pain occurs when the ITB snaps or rolls over the hip, causing inflammation.  Knee pain can be cause by a similar rubbing of the ITB across the knee joint.  Knee pain can also result when the ITB pulls the knee cap to the outside, causing it to be improperly positioned relative to the other structures in the knee joint. This can cause pain to the inside or outside of the knee cap.  Whether ITB syndrome causes symptoms at the hip and/or knee depends on a person’s particular anatomy and running mechanics.

What You Can Do?

“Much can be done to manage your ITB syndrome, and flexibility is key,” said physical therapist Scott Van Nest of the Sports Medicine & Training Center.  “Runners are notorious for not wanting to take the time to stretch but it is extremely important, particularly early in the running season as you are trying to increase your mileage.”

Explore>> How to Safely Stretch Your ITB

Van Nest suggests using heat for ten minutes on your lateral thigh then stretching your lateral hip and ITB.  You can also roll a foam cylinder across the outside of your thigh to help stretch the ITB.  Ice and anti-inflammatory medications, used short term, can help decrease inflammation.  However, if your pain persists or recurs with activities, the ITB tightness is likely a symptom of an underlying mechanical issue, such as a pelvic dysfunction.  A specialist who is experienced in working with running athletes can identify the mechanical problem and help you correct it.

Sports Medicine & Training Center

The Sports Medicine & Training Center (SMTC) of St. Louis specializes in general orthopedics, sports-related physical therapy and a variety of sports performance training programs.  It's vision is to integrate rehabilitation, performance enhancement, education and research to create a regionally recognized sports medicine center capable of serving the needs of any individual, whatever his or her vocation or avocation.