Irritation of the ITB, often called ITB Syndrome, is most common in runners and cyclists, although it can occur in just about anybody.
This is primarily due to it’s anatomy: as the knee bends and straightens, the ITB rubs back and forth over a small bone.
Overall, ITB pain is fairly easy to diagnose, since you can push along the tissue and determine if there’s any tenderness or pain. However, what’s more difficult is figuring out the true, underlying cause of pain.
Once you find the ROOT CAUSE of the pain and irritation, you can then proceed to treating it.
4 Keys to Eliminating IT Band Syndrome
Key #1: Stretch your IT Band. Technically, when you stretch your IT Band, you’re actually stretching the little muscle that connects to the band up near your pelvis. The stretch is a bit tricky to explain in writing, but essentially you cross your opposite leg in front of the leg you want to stretch. From there, you push your back hip out while leaning your trunk and shoulders in the opposite direction. Standing near a wall is helpful for balance. You should feel a comfortable pulling sensation up near the outside of your hip, and you can hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds (repeat 2-3 times on each leg, 1-2 times/day).
Key #2: Massage the IT Band. There are a few good ways to massage the band itself, which helps break up any scar tissue and makes the tissue more pliable. Using a foam roller on the floor is one way, although this can be a little intense for some people, especially if your IT Band is really sensitive (since you have most of your body weight pressing down). Another excellent way to do some self-massage is to purchase a massage roller. There are quite a few options for these types of rollers online, and they usually cost around $15-20. They look like fancy rolling pins!
Key #3: Use Ice. Since the IT Band is inflamed due to the repetitive irritation, using ice can be very beneficial, especially when applied down near the outside of the knee. Heat can also be helpful along the length of the IT Band, especially when combined with stretching and massage, which helps reduce tension along the band.
Key #4: Find the ROOT CAUSE. If your IT Band is irritated and painful, your best shot at getting rid of it for good is to figure out why it’s so irritated in the first place. For many people, especially runners and cyclists, there will be some underlying issues that are affecting their knee and leg alignment (biomechanical issues), such as poor hip strength. If you can figure out and correct these underlying issues, you have a very good chance of getting rid of your pain and keeping it from coming back later in the season!
That last point is pretty important: learning how to treat IT Band pain with things like stretches and massage is very important.
BUT, treating the pain and inflammation without understanding what’s causing it in the first place will only get you so far (aka temporary relief).
So, if you’re struggling with what you think is IT Band pain, and you’d like to get rid of it once and for good, feel free to shoot me a quick email, and I’ll see what I can do to help you out.
In the video below, I’ll give you more information on how to tell if you have ITB pain, how to figure out the root cause, and ultimately how to eliminate the pain. Enjoy!
– Luke Gordon (Luke@GordonPhysicalTherapy.com)