IT Band Syndrome
It’s tempting to try and run through the pain of many common running injuries. But discomfort from iliotibial (IT) band syndrome can stop you in your tracks.
With the right care and treatment, however, an injury does not need to end your running season. In fact, our dedicated team of sports medicine experts specializes in helping runners overcome injuries – and prevent them from coming back.
Learn more about IT Band Syndrome below and how Baptist Health Louisville can help.
What Is IT Band Syndrome?
IT Band stands for iliotibial band, which is a sheet-like tendon that starts from your hip-bone (ilium) and attaches to your shin bone (tibia). Your IT band in your leg makes it possible to rotate your hips and keep your knees stable when you run.
IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that happens when your IT band becomes tight or enflamed and starts rubbing against nearby bones. IT band problems are often under-recognized. In fact, it is common to mistake the symptoms of IT band syndrome with knee problems.
IT band syndrome causes pain on the outside of the knee. Common iliotibial band syndrome symptoms:
- May be in one or both of your knees
- Is an aching, burning feeling that sometimes spreads up the thigh to the hip
- Happens only when you exercise, especially when you run
- Tends to feel worse immediately after you strike your foot against the ground
- May start near the end of your workout, at first, but comes earlier as the condition worsens
IT band syndrome is often the result of an overuse injury, caused by repetitive bending and extending of the knee. Many people who experience IT band syndrome also have weakness in part of their leg, such as the muscle in the back of the leg (hamstring) that causes the IT band to work harder than it should.
This condition happens most frequently in distance runners. But athletes in other sports, like cycling, rowing or soccer, can experience it as well.
If you are a runner, you might be more likely to develop IT band syndrome if:
- You run on uneven or downhill terrain.
- You run in poorly fitting shoes.
- You frequently run long distances.
- Your legs slope a little inward from your knee to your ankle (bowlegged).
At Baptist Health Louisville, we use a comprehensive approach, taking time to understand what is causing your pain and how it is affecting you during activity and while at rest.
Your evaluation may include:
We ask a lot of questions about your health history and your current exercise habits. We listen carefully as you describe the pain and how it changes with activity and rest.
IT Band Physical Exam
We examine the area causing pain. This exam may include applying gentle pressure to check for swelling and tenderness. We also carefully move your legs or knees in certain ways to test your range of motion.
There is a simple IT band syndrome test you can do at home. The best way to tell if you have IT band syndrome is to bend your knee at a 45-degree angle. If you feel pain on the outside of the knee, you may have IT band problems.
We are often able to diagnose IT band syndrome based on physical exam findings. However, if we are not able to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis or a tear in the cartilage of the knee (meniscus tear), we may recommend imaging tests. These tests include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.
The best care for IT band syndrome often includes simple treatments to help your body recover along with plenty of rest. Our personalized approach helps you return to running when it is medically safe to do so.
Treatments for IT band syndrome include:
IT Band Syndrome Physical Therapy
This treatment includes practicing special exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around your hip and your knee for IT band syndrome rehab. You may perform IT band syndrome exercises on your own or as part of physical therapy.
IT Band Syndrome Prevention
Making small changes to the way you run (gait) can reduce stress on your IT band.
Taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as anti-inflammatories, can relieve discomfort. Our experts may also prescribe medications.
Getting steroid (cortisone) injections can decrease swelling and inflammation.
While IT band syndrome surgery is not a common treatment option, surgery may be needed to help lengthen the IT band if other treatments do not help. IT band syndrome surgery is a relatively short, outpatient surgery with a faster recovery time than other orthopedic surgeries. IT band surgery recovery time is approximately 6 weeks.
How Long Does IT Band Syndrome Take to Heal?
IT band syndrome recovery time will vary from individual to individual. Some patients have iliotibial band syndrome worse than others, and some may have other conditions that may cause similar symptoms of IT band problems.
Our experts understand how frustrating it is when you can’t run. You want nothing more than to get out and pound the pavement, but the pain or fear of pain near your knee takes all the fun out of it. We offer prompt access to care and personalized IT band syndrome treatment that will have you back to enjoying your runner’s high in no time.
Highlights of our IT band care include:
- Gait analysis: We are one of few programs in Louisville with a therapist who specializes in fixing irregularities in running form (gait) that can cause or delay recovery from running injuries. Learn more about gait analysis.
- Convenience: We help you get care as quickly as possible with same-day appointments. During the fall sports season, we also offer a Saturday walk-in clinic. Our services include in-office ultrasound capabilities, so you can get the imaging tests you need without delay.
- Evaluation: Our primary care sports medicine physicians specialize in caring for endurance athletes. We perform a comprehensive evaluation and listen to everything you have to say so that we can give you the most accurate diagnosis possible.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us or call 502.253.6699.
New patients are always welcome at Baptist Health. Read helpful information for new sports medicine patients and referring physicians.
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