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Lingering IT Band Syndrome

Lingering IT Band Syndrome

What is Lingering IT Band Syndrome?

The iliotibial tendon (IT) descends from three hip muscles, runs along the outside of your leg, and comes together to form a thick tendon on the outside of the knee.

The IT band helps to extend and rotate your hip, as well as stabilize and move the side of your knee.

If the muscles around the hip aren’t controlling the tendon properly, the IT band will rub on the knee’s bony prominence, known as the lateral femoral epicondyle.

This causes the IT band to become tight, irritated or inflamed.

As a result, sharp pain runs alongside the knee which may extend upward to the hip.

Activities such as walking, running, and cycling become impossible due to the severe discomfort.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes IT Band Syndrome?

Common causes and risk factors of IT band syndrome include:

  • Overuse from repetitive strain on your knee, whether occupational (jobs that require crouching and lifting), or recreational (such as running, cycling or hiking)
  • Previous IT band injury
  • Weak or inflexible hip, gluteal, abdominal, knee, or hamstring muscles
  • Incorrect technique or training in sports including lack of strength training
  • Direct trauma to the outside of the knee
  • Poor lower body biomechanics (flat feet, bowlegs, unbalanced leg length)
  • Sitting for long periods of time every day
  • Wearing high heels frequently

Athletes such as runners and cyclists are most at risk for IT band syndrome as they repeatedly move their knees.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome?

IT band syndrome causes irritation and pain when moving the knee. 

Pain can begin suddenly, or come on gradually, progressively getting worse. 

Other signs and symptoms include: 

  • Sharp pain right below the outer side of the kneecap stretching up to the thigh, making it difficult to walk
  • Pain when bending and straightening the knee due to the strain causing the tendon to thicken
  • Soreness directly over the IT band
  • Tightness along the quadriceps muscle and into the hips

Concerned about symptoms of IT band syndrome? Book a physiotherapy assessment at your local pt Health clinic today.

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How is IT Band Syndrome Treated?

IT band syndrome is usually treated conservatively through ice, rest, and taking anti-inflammatory painkillers if needed. 

However, since IT band syndrome usually only worsens with time, it’s essential to get treatment right away. 

Treatment can include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Corticosteroid injections for severe, chronic cases
  • Surgery – while surgery is rare, if it is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation

Physiotherapy for IT Band Syndrome

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing mobility and function, and preventing recurrence. 

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.

Depending on the severity of your IT band syndrome and your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:

  • Activity modifications
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Range of motion and flexibility exercises
  • Balance and control exercises 
  • Core strength exercises
  • Personalized exercise plan that you can do at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
  • Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
  • Patient education including return to work or sport recommendations
  • Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as: 

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Can IT Band Syndrome Go Away On Its Own?

Sometimes patients wait a few weeks to see a physiotherapist, hoping that the pain will calm down and they can get back to normal. 

Unfortunately, time alone isn’t enough to heal and rid you of the pain because an imbalance in the pelvic region and core muscles is usually at fault. 

The reality is, as long as you keep putting stress on the tendon, the symptoms are likely to reoccur and worsen over time, turning into lingering IT band syndrome. 

So while a typical recovery is six to eight weeks, delaying treatment could take upwards of three months to fully recover. 

IT band syndrome is not likely to reoccur if you keep up with your treatment plan.

Can You Prevent IT Band Syndrome?

Yes. The best way to prevent IT band syndrome is to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises as part of an overall fitness plan. 

Even if you play sports, run, or cycle, speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.

Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of suffering from IT band syndrome include:

  • Warming up and stretching before exercise
  • Cooling down and stretching after exercise
  • Practicing proper technique in sport including stretching and strengthening exercises (especially core strength exercises and hamstring strengthening exercises for runners)
  • Gradually increasing your training
  • Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for IT Band Syndrome Today

Concerned about symptoms of IT band syndrome? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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