The IT band is a long piece of tissue that runs from outside the hip to the outside of the knee. This is an extremely important part of the hip that will impact it’s function if it’s tight or inhibited. This is when problems like ITBS or IT band syndrome come into play. Anyone who’s been running for a long time understands the debilitating nature of a tight, inhibited, or chronically dysfunctional IT band. The pain can manifest itself in several different ways such as hip pinching, low back pain, lack of hip function, and a burning sensation on the outside of the knee. ITBS is one of the most common overuse injuries afflicting up to 12 percent of runners, both beginners and elite.
IT-band Syndrome can originate in many ways. One area that can influence this issue has to do higher up the leg with a muscle called the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL). The IT band is really a longitudinal fibrous reinforcement of the TFL, and goes down the leg to connect on the outside of the knee and can rub against the lateral epicondyle or bony protrusion on the outside of the knee joint. When the TFL muscle gets too tight it can cause compensations, increasing the tension area in the knee leading to inflammation and pain. The pain can be so severe it can slow down even the most seasoned runners.
Around 80% of runners will become injured annually, IT band tightness and IT band syndrome are some of the main causes of these injuries. This is crazy when you consider that running is the evolutionary niche that has allowed us to survive and thrive for hundreds of thousands of years. Saying that 80% of runners will be injured every year is like saying 80% of birds will be injured from flying every year. In order to keep yourself healthy and on the road it’s important to prioritize mobilizing the joints, muscles, tissues, and ligaments that are used when you run. This prevents compensation and overuse which will almost always lead to a more severe injury.
Help keep IT Band syndrome off your radar by making the right stretches part of your routine! It is important to stretch the individual muscles that surround the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Stretches that target your glutes, hamstrings, adductors, abductors, calves, achilles, and the lower low back muscles are excellent tools to sustain and grow your mileage. Keeping these often-used areas flexible will help prevent ITBS and keep you running pain free!
Written by Conner Fritchley, Stretch Therapist and LYMBR Academy Instructor.