In your legs, you have three major leg joints, all of which are anchored through the wide strip of ligament called the iliotibial band. Without this band, the force of your steps would push your joints outwards, causing intense pain. That’s why iliotibial band syndrome can be so debilitating. It causes pain, irritation, inflammation, burning sensations, swelling and more in the affected area. Here is what you need to know about iliotibial band syndrome and how to help speed up your healing!


What Is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

The iliotibial band is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of your leg and helps provide stability to the outside of the knee joint. This band is used during actions such as walking and exercising. However, the most strain in the iliotibial band comes from running, especially if you run far distances in marathons or training for triathlons. Most people won’t experience iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) unless they are very active, as this is generally an overuse injury.


Patients that have developed Iliotibial band syndrome experience chronic pain along the area where the iliotibial band runs, especially around the knee area. This is because the IT band helps to move your knee joint as it stabilizes it. If this band has become injured or irritated from overuse, it can be very painful to move the leg, even with simple walking. Most patients mistakenly think they have a knee injury to one of their muscles, as pain on the outside of the knee is one of the most common symptoms patients experience.


You will know that the problem is likely your IT band if the pain comes and goes with activity, periodically throughout your exercising, and if you don’t experience swelling. A muscle tear or strain will produce swelling in that area of your body, where as the IT band will cause inflammation (which is painful) instead of swelling.


Prevention of Runner’s Knee

IT band syndrome can be tricky because it can come and go depending on your activity level.

The cause of iliotibial band syndrome is usually from a sudden increase in exercise or physical activity. Runners who increase their mileage too fast often develop iliotibial band syndrome, as do individuals with biomechanical problems with their gait such overpronation, leg length discrepancies, or individuals who are bow-legged, or those who have dominant pelvic rotation.


However, iliotibial band syndrome is known as “Runners Knee” for a reason because it most likely happens to those who run a lot. You want to notice how your body feels when your run and stop running right away when you get pain in the IT band area. Don’t ever try to “push through” pain or issues that you are feeling, as this can lead to more inflammation, a sudden tear or serious injury or symptoms that don’t go away easily.


With IT band syndrome, you simply must rest your legs to stop the issue from happening, which means you need to cross-train as your body heals. Cross training with swimming, cycling, rowing, and lifting weights is actually healthier for you to avoid overuse injuries all over the body. Icing and heating the area is beneficial for some patients, as is all-over body stretching after a proper warmup. To recap, switch up your exercises even if running needs to be the main exercise you do. Cross-train and listen to your body’s cues. Stop when you experience pain and steadily increase your mileage and speed.


Treatment and Healing

If you have runner’s knee, don’t let it rule your life! Many patients don’t realize they needed to prevent iliotibial band syndrome until they already have it, which is why treatment and then future prevention is key.


We can start you off with anti-inflammatory joint injections. Joint injections can soothe pain (with the added benefit of halting joint and cartilage breakdown if you have that from other conditions). Joint injections will provide lots of lubrication for your knee joints and muscles, soothing the chronic pain you feel with movement. The medication will also soothe irritation caused by inflammation. We also look to natural therapies to keep your alignment correct and to manage the pain and symptoms you feel during your healing period.


Chiropractic adjustments can help relieve the pressure placed on the joints and knee muscles when the body is out of alignment. That relief of pressure will put less stress on the joints, which will reduce damaging inflammation. Chiropractic care can also help restore the loss of range-of-motion that comes with injury or chronic conditions. For some patients, our customized exercise and stretching programs can lower the irritation you feel without further damaging your joints. Coupling exercise with massage or vibration therapy, you can restore flexibility to stiff joints and limbs and muscles, tendons and ligaments that hurt you.


Get Back Up and Running

Getting injured during exercise, and especially a training season can be very difficult, especially when it comes to the fitness goals you have. Studies show that you can heal quicker with professional help, which comes in handy when you have deadlines and training schedules you are trying to stick to. When iliotibial band syndrome sets in, or if you want to be training correctly to prevent muscle, tendon and band issues, call Spine Correction Center today at (970) 658-5115!