ITB Syndrome and how to Care for it

Two People Running

For many runners, hitting the pavement isn’t only a healthy form of exercise, it’s a passion and a way of life. However, no matter what the motivation behind the activity may be, the unfortunate fact is athletes are often prone to an onset of physical complaints, including foot problems, heel pain and other ailments.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), is one of the leading knee injuries that runners experience. It can impact activity levels and lead to disabling pain. Discovering more about this common injury and how to care for it can help keep runners on track…literally.

What is ITBS?

ITB Syndrome involves the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs from the hip to the knee, which helps to stabilize the knee and aid in joint movement. When friction of the ITB band on the side of the knee occurs, the result is inflammation and irritation. This causes sharp pain that is located on the outside of the knee. It may also include the following symptoms:

Swelling around the outside of the knee
Pain that increases with continued running or activity
Feeling the band “snap” as the knee bends and straightens
Feeling intense pains strike when knee is slightly bent
In some cases, pain and tightness at the outside of the hip

What Causes the Syndrome?

Classified as an overuse injury, ITB syndrome is caused by the repetitive bending of the knee. However, there are several different factors that can contribute to the knee pain and increase the chances a person will experience it. Common risk factors include:

  • Overpronation of the foot
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Bowed legs
  • Legs that are uneven in length or an uneven running stride
  • Wearing worn-out footwear
  • Running downhill
  • Improper training techniques: too much too soon, insufficient warm-up before activity or not enough rest in between periods of exercise

What Can Be Done For Care & Treatment?

If nothing is done to take care of ITBS, the pain can become chronic and bring activity to a halt. There are several things that can be done to alleviate the pain and prevent the problem from worsening.

Resting is perhaps the most obvious form of care. For runners, it may be one of the most difficult. Running less often and/or shorter distances should be done to allow the ITB band time to heal. However if pain continues, running should be stopped completely, and another treatment pursued. Other methods for caring for ITBS may include:

Ice – Applying ice to the area can help reduce inflammation and pain. This can be done for a length of about 15-20 minutes or until pain diminishes.
Orthotics – Visiting with a podiatrist and possibly having footwear fitted for orthotics can help to ensure proper support.
Stretches – Regularly doing side stretches that stretch the ITB band and hip muscles are helpful for treatment and preventative measures.
Roll It Out – Using a foam roller can work to stretch out the ITB band and act as a deep tissue massage. This can be done by sliding down on one’s side and putting the foam roller under the leg. Next, roll the foam from the hip to the knee using the pressure of body weight.
Strengthening Exercises – Performing lower body exercises like squats and lunges can help build up weak butt and hip muscles. These weak muscles may be contributing factors to the syndrome.

In certain cases, a doctor may recommend additional treatment options such as medication and electrotherapy. Surgery is another option, but it is only performed as a last resort.

The most important thing is that something should be done to care for ITBS in order for runners to once again tackle a path without pain. If you need to be fitted for orthotics, or have another foot issue, contact Super Foot & Ankle Care Center in Long Beach. Our experienced podiatrists and staff are dedicated to helping patients achieve proper foot health in order to get back to being active in the things they love in life.