How to Treat IT Band Syndrome

IT Band Syndrome occurs when the Iliotibial Band (IT Band) in the leg gets irritated from running. The IT Band stretches from the outside of a person’s knee to the outside of the hip. IT Band Syndrome pain is usually felt on the outside of the knee as a dull ache that gets worse over the course of a run. It is a difficult injury that prevents a runner from training to his or her maximum.

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

Like almost every running injury, IT Band pain occurs when runners incorporate intense speed work, such as tempo runs and fartleks, and racing into their training plans without easing into the increased workload.

IT Band Syndrome also occurs when a runner uses worn out shoes that over 500 miles on them. Therefore, it is essential to run only in high-quality, supportive shoes. An additional cause of IT Band Syndrome is when a runner runs a lot of miles with an unresolved pronation problem. “Pronation” means that a runner’s foot collapses inward upon impact, which puts tremendous strain on the knee and hips and strains the IT Band. Pronation problems can be treated by a podiatrist by modeling customized orthotics that correct any biomechanical issues.

How to Treat IT Band Syndrome

Here are some ideas for treating IT Band Syndrome.

  • RICE: One of the best ways to treat IT Band Syndrome is the RICE method. The first letter, R , stands for “Rest.” If you are feeling IT Band pain, don’t try to tough it out! Take at least two days off and give your body a chance to heal! The second letter, I, stands for “Ice.” The best way to ice your IT Band is to freeze water in a paper cup in the freezer. When the water freezes, take the round ice out of the cup and roll it on your painful area for about 10 minutes. The third letter, C, stands for “Compression.” After icing your painful area, wrap an ace bandage or towel around your leg for at least 10 minutes. The last letter, E, stands for “Elevation.” While compressing your leg, lie on your back and prop your leg up on a chair. After 10 minutes, take the towel/ace bandage off and repeat each step of the RICE method. Try to do this at least 2-3 times per day.

  • NSAIDs: “NSAID” stands for Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug. NSAIDs include Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Motrin IB), Naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs do a great job at reducing inflammation in the body and promoting healing. While these drugs may help reduce pain from IT Band Syndrome, please be careful not to abuse the drugs. Only use NSAIDS for about a 2 week period because extended use can really do bad things to your kidneys.

  • LIGHT stretching: Once your IT Band Syndrome pain starts subside, try to incorporate some very light stretching to increase mobility and lengthen the tendon a bit to promote healing. As stated above, be very careful not to overstretch. One good way to quads and calves. I have found that having tight quads (including hip flexors) and calves can sometimes lead to IT Band Syndrome issues.

  • See a professional: If the above methods do not relieve your pain, it is important that you sports medicine physician or a physical therapist as soon as possible. For example, if you have pronation issues, all the ice and stretching in the world is not going to resolve your IT Band Syndrome in the long-term. As mentioned above, pronation twists the knees and hips as your foot lands, which puts a tremendous amount of strain on the IT-band and will cause pain. You can get an idea if you are an over-pronator by looking in the mirror as you walk. If your knee excessively rotates inward (faces the other knee), you might have pronation issues that could benefit from orthotics.

  • Keep a running log: Although a running log will not cure IT Band Syndrome, it can help you discover why an injury occurred. By tracking your workouts, you will be able to find errors in your training (i.e. not taking enough rest) that cause injuries to happen. Without the help of a running log, it is highly likely that you will continually repeat past training errors and suffer future injuries.

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