Do you have nagging outer knee pain and outer leg tightness? Is there a click or pop present when you bend your knee? Perhaps your outer leg is sore and tight as well. Do you enjoy endurance sports like running, cycling, hiking, or walking long distances?
If you fit this demographic, we’ll give you the bad news first: you may be experiencing IT band syndrome, a fairly common overuse injury. It can come on slowly and seem to stick around, unwanted, for far too long.
The good news? It really is treatable through consistent conservative care, but you need to be intentional about your approach to healing. In this article, we’re diving a little deeper into what causes IT band syndrome and how you can work through it to get back to doing the activities you love, pain-free.
What Is IT Band Syndrome?
For starters, the iliotibial band (IT band) is made up of a bunch of thick fibers that run all the way from your hip to your outer knee and wrap around to attach to the top of your shinbone. Injuries to this band are much more frequent for those who participate in activities or sports that require consistent bending of the knee. Runners and cyclists, in particular, we’re looking at you!
A well-warmed up and healthy IT band should cooperate with you just fine through activity. However, when this band becomes inflamed from overuse or is too tight, this can translate into swelling and pain in the outer knee, over the attachment area. The area where the IT band crosses over the knee is usually protected by a fluid-filled sac, a bursa, but certain actions can increase your chance of causing inflammation to both the bursa and in turn, the IT band. This inflammation yields the highly uncomfortable outer knee pain that is classified as IT band syndrome.
How Can You Prevent IT Band Syndrome?
If you’re a prime candidate for IT band syndrome but haven’t felt any pangs of pain yet, great! There are some pretty easy ways to decrease your chances of developing this injury. You can play the preventative game particularly well when you pay careful attention to both form and staying properly warmed up. For example, if you’re going straight from your desk job to an after-work run with zero preparation for your legs, the shock from a drastic change in activity could be enough to irritate your IT band. Work on developing at least a shortlist of warm-up and cool-down exercises to help your legs and body come in and out of the activity with preparation on your side.
For runners, in particular, the type of terrain that you run on could affect your chances of developing IT band syndrome. Particularly rugged, or oddly slanted terrain can put undue stress on your IT band, especially when repeated frequently over time. For example, if you’re running on a road, try to switch sides of the road periodically throughout your run, as each side generally carries a slant in one direction.
Be sure to also pay attention to how much rest you’re giving your body between hard sessions. This is one preventative measure that can pay big dividends in injury prevention in general but particularly with the IT band.
How Can You Treat IT Band Syndrome?
IT band syndrome can be a complete drag, especially for you folk who are used to leading particularly active lives. However, with consistent conservative care, most cases can resolve within a couple of months.
For starters, it is best to lay off or limit the activities that seem to cause more irritation to the IT band. Try also doing some consistent, light ice massage around the affected area while allowing the knee extra rest. Some gentle stretching can also help to coax the IT band and knee back to better working order.
Chiropractic Care For IT Band Syndrome
Chiropractic treatment is another great option within the conservative care realm to help with IT band syndrome. The application of some gentle adjustments can help to realign the spine and extremities for better overall function during the healing process. This can help to loosen up the body as a whole, as well as decrease inflammation, which is an imperative step to knocking out this injury. Depending on your specific case, some additional manual therapy may also be applied to encourage healing. Your chiropractor can also help prescribe the best at-home exercises to quicken your recovery time outside of the office.
By scheduling regular chiropractic care, you can help to keep your body’s response system in tip-top shape and minimize inflammation. During the initial evaluation, we will go over your symptom history in detail and construct a treatment plan that you are completely comfortable with before moving forward. Don’t put off your healing; schedule an appointment online or call (949) 649-8790.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.