Welcome back to Run for Life: Part 2. We will continue with another common running injury…
Injury #2: Iliotibial band Syndrome (a.k.a. IT Band Syndrome/ITBS)
This is another chronic inflammation issue where the IT band, which is the big band of connective tissue on the side of your leg, becomes irritated due to overuse and poor mechanics. Not only does it alter normal running mechanics, but commonly causes lateral/outside knee pain or hip pain because of strain at its attachment sites. Similar to the treatment of plantar fasciitis, usually the IT band needs to be mobilized in order to break up any “sticky spots” that develop within the tissue as well as the muscle that attaches to it tensor fascia latae (TFL).
A foam roll, tennis ball, or lacrosse ball tends to be one of the best tools to aid in loosening the IT band. This is accomplished by lying on your affected leg on top of the foam roller/ball and then rolling up and down your leg, stopping at any tender points for a few extra seconds to break up the tissue. Hip strengthening and stabilizing exercises as well as proper ankle mobility need to be part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program when it comes to IT band issues to restore normal mechanics of the leg.
If a person comes into our clinic presenting with IT band syndrome, we again put them through our Runner’s Screening Exam to assess their overall movement patterning. In our assessment, we usually find the IT band has restrictions, which may cause the leg to be pulled outward slightly due to the attachments of the IT band. As mentioned above, this is when outside knee pain may occur and overall running mechanics will likely be compromised. We recommend using the above self-treatment of tissue mobilization, but as physical therapists, we can offer more efficient manual therapy to break up any tissue adhesions (“sticky spots”) in the IT band as well as specific techniques to develop proper movement patterns of the legs and spine when running.