Injury Series: The IT Band
Happy Monday, friends!
I had quite the weekend. I covered 2 back to back 11 milers, went to a concert, participated in a pancake flipping contest and attended a work event for my new job. You know…the standard weekend.
I have been getting a lot of questions about injuries lately and goodness knows I’ve had my fair share of them so I am going to do a mini series on some of the biggest injuries that plague runners. I am going to break it down into what they are, how to treat it, strengthening exercises for the area and how to go back to running once the injury has been healed.
So let’s jump right in, shall we? I am starting off with perhaps the number one injury to plague runners besides shin splints – the IT band.
What is it?
It’s lesser known name is the iliotibial band and is a thick band of fascia on the lateral side of the knee, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee.
What does it do?
The band is crucial to stabilizing the knee during running, as it moves from behind the femur to the front during your runs. The thing to keep in mind with this is that ITB is NOT a muscle. It works at the knee based on how the knee is moving in relation to it’s attachments. If the knee bends more than 30 degrees, it helps bend the knee more. If the knee is less than 20 degrees bent, it helps to straighten it.
How does it get injured?
IT Band injuries are not like muscle injuries where you get sprains & strains. The band is a large tendon, which means you are treated to tendonitis and friction syndromes. Typically, the band is injured when it becomes tight and attachments pull the tendon out of it’s normal place. This results in the band being pulled tight over the femur (big upper leg bone), and repeatedly dragged back and forth over the bone as it helps bend and straighten the knee. Once this happens, the band is wide open to injury, especially in the presence of repetitive activities such as running or biking.
This can come from training habits, anatomical abnormalities, or muscular imbalances.
Some of the common offenders for runners are:
- Consistently running on a banked surface, which causes the downhill leg to bend slightly inward, causing extreme stretching of the band against the femur (such as the shoulder of a road or an indoor track)
- Inadequate warm-up or cool-down
- Excessive up-hill and down-hill running
- Running up and down stairs.
- Excessive foot strike force
- Uneven leg length
- Weak hip abductor muscles
- High or low arches
What are the symptoms of Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
ITBS symptoms range from a stinging sensation just above the knee joint to swelling or thickening of the tissue in the area where the band moves over the femur. The stinging sensation just above the knee joint is felt on the outside of the knee or along the entire length of the IT band. Pain may not occur immediately during activity, but may intensify over time. Pain is most commonly felt when the foot strikes the ground, and pain might persist after activity. Pain may also be present above and below the knee, where the ITB attaches to the tibia.
Check back next Monday for how to fix the problem!
Have you ever suffered from IT Band injury?