Ask a PT: IT Band Syndrome

In the latest edition of Ask a PT, we'll discuss IT Band Syndrome, another common injury our customers and fellow runners encounter. This problem is unique because IT Band Syndrome is often misdisagnosed as a knee issue due to the pain felt in that area.


To give you the best information and advice, we've teamed up with the pros at True Sports PT to help you understand the symptoms, treatment and prevention of this injury. Let's get down to business.


What is IT Band Syndrome?

The Iliotibial (IT) Band is a thick band of fibers that runs from the outside of the thigh and knee down to the top of the shinbone. When the band becomes too tight, it results in pain around the knee. It’s often caused by poor technique during activities that involve repeatedly bending the knee and moving the leg inward, such as running, cycling or hiking.

What are the symptoms of IT Band Syndrome (ITB)?

The most common sign of ITBS is a nagging pain on the outside of the knee. As previously mentioned, this injury is misdiagnosed and mistaken for a runner's knee or a torn meniscus.

If you are experiencing swelling in your knee and feel a clicking sensation during exercise, you may be dealing with a lateral meniscus tear. If you are consistently experiencing pain up and down your leg about five minutes into a run, then it’s most likely IT Band Syndrome.


How do I treat IT Band Synrome?

If pain is sharp with every step, anti-inflammatory measures and rest are helpful. If pain is dull, the best treatment is to strengthen the hips to take the stress off of the ITband. You can also try foam rolling to stretch the IT band. When foam rolling, it’s important to massage the muscles from the bottom of the hip to the top of the knee, avoiding the bony areas causing the pain.

If the pain persists after applying the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method, talk to a physician or sports medicine professional. Proper care and strengthening exercises should improve symptoms within four to six weeks. As a last resort, a cortisone injection can break up the scar tissue and facilitate the healing process. It usually takes about six weeks to recover, and surgery is rarely required to treat this injury.

How can I prevent IT Band Syndrome?

It’s important to know your limits when you’re training, because ITB is most commonly associated with overuse during exercises. Ensure you are properly stretching and warming up before exercise, and resting between intense workouts. Whether running on a track or on the road, be sure to alternate sides and directions to prevent misalignment. You may also try tinkering with your form and opting for shorter, softer strides. This technique will lessen the impact from the ground and protect your joints.


Above all, it’s important to wear the right shoes for your feet. At Holabird Sports, we offer a free stride analysis that allows our experts to analyze the degree of pronation and determine the proper style of footwear for your activities. We also sell insoles to keep your feet balanced to alleviate any issues in alignment. For overpronators, it helps to keep hips and thighs from rotating inward excessively. For supinators, it helps distribute shock more evenly instead of just on the outside of the leg.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises


Remember that IT Band Syndrome is mainly an overuse injury. Many runners have what we call the “warrior mentality,” which allows them to push through a workout while neglecting the warning signs of an injury. Some are even proud of their injuries, but wouldn’t it be better to brag about NOT having any issues? Now that you know the symptoms, listen to your body’s cues and rest when necessary. No one wants to delay their fitness goals due to injury, so train hard but be smart!

We hope you're enjoying the Holabird Sports and True Sports PT recovery series, where we explore the most common running injuries and how to avoid or overcome them. Stay tuned for our next post, where we'll dive into the symptoms, prevention and treatment for Plantar Fasciitis.

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