IT band syndrome: Exercises, symptoms and treatment

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What is IT band syndrome?

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS or IT band syndrome) is one of the most frustrating injuries for runners. Luckily, there are IT band treatment options out there.

Your IT band is a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the outside of your hip to the outside of your knee.

It helps to stabilise and move your knee joint, so when it isn’t working or when it becomes inflamed, you experience knee pain.

Iliotibial band syndrome treatment

The pain typically occurs on the outside of your knee.

Many runners mistake this pain for a knee injury. One of the key differences between a knee injury and IT band pain is swelling.

You won’t experience any noticeable swelling with IT band syndrome, whereas a knee injury usually causes swelling.

If in doubt, I suggest you see your GP or a physio.

What causes IT band syndrome?

IT band pain is a common overuse injury. Running too many miles is a common reason for this type of pain.

Running on surfaces that causes the leg to turn inwards is also a common cause of IT band syndrome. For example, running downhill or on banked surfaces.

Running in worn out shoes is also a common cause as they can cause the leg to roll inwards.

Another major cause is weak glutes. Your glutes are one of the powerhouse muscles in running.

Located in your but, these muscles help to propel your leg forward and swing it back during the running movement.

How do I treat IT band syndrome?

As with any running injury, the first point of call is rest and recovery.

Lower your weekly mileage or, even better, stop running altogether.

If you continue to run whilst still experiencing pain, you risk turning it into a chronic injury.

If you dislike the idea of not doing any exercise at all, you can look into doing cross training like swimming, cycling and rowing.

These are great low impact activities that won’t place as much strain on your muscles and joints.

Related: 4 powerful habits to help prevent running injuries

IT band syndrome treatment

How do I prevent IT band syndrome?

IT band syndrome is a common overuse injury, so if you regular experience issues, it may be a sign to change your training routine.

You can still train consistently, but train smarter.

Remember to include a warm up before each run and don’t increase your mileage too quickly.

Related: How to warm up properly before a 5k race

A sudden increase in mileage is a common cause of IT band syndrome.

A regular stretching and foam rolling routine is also a great way to help prevent IT band syndrome.

Foam rolling will loosen your IT band. Roll slowly from bottom of hip to top of knee along the outside of the leg to loosen up the muscles, fascia, and IT band.

Glute strengthening exercises are also key when treating and preventing IT band syndrome.

As discussed above, your glutes play an important role to propel you forward and swing your leg bag.

Here’s one of my favourite glute strengthening workouts. Do 10 reps and three rounds with 1-2 minutes of rest in between each round.

  • 10 jump squats

  • 10 forward lunges

  • 10 hip adduction/abduction with resistance band

  • 10 clams with resistance band

  • 10 single leg deadlifts

  • 10 single left glute bridge

Try and include a glute strengthening workout into your training routine one to two times a week.

It will go a long way to strengthen your glutes and make you a faster and stronger runner, and more importantly, help the recurrence of IT band.

Lastly, if your trainers are feeling a little worn, especially along the side of the sole, this is a sign to replace them.

I suggest visiting a local running shop and telling them that you are in the market for a new pair of running shoes.

They probably get a lot of runners who experience IT band pain, so will be able to advise on the best running shoe for you.

Related: 6 strength exercises to help prevent runner’s knee

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