by Sean Ruane, PT
You might have heard of the IT band, or you may be wondering if it’s a body part or a new musical group on the radio- you’re not sure which! However, if you develop problems with your IT band, the pain will definitely get your attention.
The IT band is a long band that goes from your hip to just below your knee along the outside of the leg. IT actually stands for iliotibial band. It attaches at your iliac crest, which is a part of your pelvis and also at your tibia, which is the large bone in your leg. It is made of connective tissue, which causes it to become very tough and does not have a lot of flexibility to it. The IT band crosses over a lot of structures, which can allow it to become irritated very easily.
So, how do you know if you have an issue with your IT band? Have you ever walked or run a lot and noticed pain going along the outside of your leg? Do you feel tender when you touch the outside of your leg? All of these can be signs that you have IT band syndrome, which is irritation to the band. The picture shows points where tenderness occurs typically. IT Band problems are common among runners, cyclists, hikers, and weight lifters- basically it can happen to anyone, and is an overuse injury. It can often feel like you are experiencing a knee problem, when it is actually something else entirely. An irritated IT band can lead to IT Band Syndrome over time.
There are two common causes for IT band syndrome:
1) Muscular weakness
Because of where the IT band is located, if we have weakness in the muscles of the hip, it can cause stress to the IT band. The muscles that we find that are most commonly weak are all the way up in the hip. They are the gluteus muscles (gluteus medius/maximus are most common). These muscles help to keep your pelvis stabilized while you are running. If they are too weak, the IT band is then stretched and it rubs over the structures on the outside of the leg. I have one simple exercise that is easy and perfect for strengthening these muscles to provide more hip strength and stability.
Clam Shell: Lie down on the opposite side that you are having difficulty with. Bend your knees and have your feet, hips, and shoulders all in alignment. Keep your feet together and raise your top knee off the ground. Be careful not to let your hips move. Perform 30 repetitions or as many as you can do up to 30. You can also add a band around your knees to make more difficult.
2) IT Band Tightness
The IT band is very difficult to stretch, however, there are some ways that you can loosen it up. In my opinion, one of the easiest is to use a foam roller. Just lay on your side and gently roll up and down for 1 minute staying concentrating on the tender areas.
If you are in need of a foam roller, come in-we have them at the offices in both Hockessin and North Wilmington. They can be used for a variety of exercises, and are inexpensive- they are worth the investment!
Try these tips to improve your pain today. If you are still having pain after trying these tips feel free to give us a call at (302) 234-2288 or stop in today. We want to help you feel better soon!