IT Band Syndrome – Melina Mirzaei, Kinesiologist

What is it?

The IT band is a thick sheath of connective tissue which runs along the outside of the thigh and connects to the outside of the shin bone (tibia). It is not a muscle itself, but is a fibrous continuation of a muscle called the tensor fascia latae (TFL); it helps to stabilize the lateral aspect of the knee.

Why does it hurt?

Pain along the IT band is often referred to as runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, or IT band friction syndrome. It is often felt in the bottom 1/3 of the tissue or on the outer aspect of the knee. This pain might also be accompanied by a clicking sensation on the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome is often attributed to the taut IT band snapping over bony structures as the knee bends and straightens, or simply to excessive tightness in the tissue itself. These symptoms can be due to various factors such as:

  • Weakness or tightness in the glutes
  • Muscle imbalance around the hip and pelvis
  • Overuse/over-training
  • Sudden increases in training volume or intensity

 Runners and cyclists are often susceptible to IT band pain due to the repetitive flexion and extension at the knee. Dancers also commonly experience tightness in the IT band, possibly due to dominance, weakness and/or tightness of the lateral knee and hip tissues.

What can be done?

Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy are an effective combination to help relieve problems related to the IT band. A thorough assessment is necessary to identify the root cause of the injury, such as muscle imbalances or faulty biomechanics. Rest from any aggravating activity may be necessary in acute cases. Your treatment plan might include manual therapy or dry needling to relieve tightness and trigger points in the IT band and related muscles. Deep tissue massage is also effective to release excessive tension. Outside of the clinic, regular stretching and foam rolling directly over the IT band, glutes, quadriceps and TFL are helpful to maintain the benefits of treatment. Your physiotherapist will also prescribe strengthening exercises to address and prevent muscle imbalances. They can also help you fine-tune your training program to avoid aggravating the IT band and prevent further injury.

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