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Healthy Habits – IT band syndrome: Injury to movement

Iliotibial band syndrome is a pain many workout enthusiasts, runners and cyclists can experience. The area affected is near the outside of the hip and/or the outside of the knee. The IT is a band of strong tissue that runs from the hip to the tibia which is below the knee joint and at the top of the shin bone.

The responsibility of the band is to stabilize the knee when you move; however, excessive training, poor biomechanics, tight muscles and little flexibility and/or repetitive unbalanced exercises can cause pain to the IT area.

When the IT band is aggravated, the person will feel pain during the same movements, an achy/burning sensation near the hip and/or knee pain. The pain can be present when movement is taking place and during sedentary periods. Competitive athletes, long-distance runners, basketball players, soccer players and people who are new to exercising can feel any or all these symptoms.

There are a few reasons the onset of pain might come. Not stretching pre/post movement, running down hill, not having proper supportive shoes, over-pronation, which is an over flattening of the feet, having tight muscles in the buttocks, thighs and hips, having knee arthritis so the knees "bow" in and/or overworking out can all lead to irritation of the IT band.

Sometimes a bursa, or a fluid-filled sac, can form when the bone continues to rub against the band. The R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression and elevate – method should be used to address the pain right away. If walking is uncomfortable and the swelling doesn't subside, however, seeing a medical professional is advised.

Diagnosing IT band syndrome requires a medical professional who can do the Ober or the Noble compression tests. The Ober test is when the professional will ask the person to lie on their side and move their knee and hip. The Nobel test would begin the same, but the professional would additionally apply pressure while moving the knee and hip.

Going forward, athletes should make sure to wear proper shoes, stretch pre/post workout, run on flat, even surfaces, correct muscle imbalances and form and adjust the workout intensity. Physical therapy can help with proper stretches and strengthen them to lessen inflammation and pain.

Natural remedies such as turmeric and Epsom salt baths can also help with relief. Taking a break from the activities/movements that led to the pain is a good idea. The duration of the rest could vary and trying other exercise alternatives could be an option as well.

Movement is medicine, and physical activity is a part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, people should listen when their body speaks to them. Ignoring pain or continuing to add to the inflammation leads to more problems over time. Injuries don't have to be setbacks, instead be proactive and mindful.

Megan Johnson McCullough recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.


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