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What does the IT band do and how do IT band problems start?

knee pain

By: Mike Bills, MS PT

What is the IT band and how do problems start here? There are a number of muscles on the outside of your hip that attach to the IT band. The job of all of these muscles is to keep the hip joint structures open, help support the joint and then create the movement of the joint. Most commonly what happens in a patient who is experiencing some level of IT band problems is that the muscles on the outside of the hip that are working to hold the hip together while we move the leg are overworking. This means that they are pulling too hard on the IT band and as a result, that long tendon is put under stress and begins to be inflamed. This causes pain and problems.

Let’s use the example of someone walking. When we walk and place our foot on the ground, the IT band and the muscles that attach to it are responsible for keeping the hip in the socket as well as absorbing the impact of our foot hitting the ground. This major work load is asking the muscles and the IT band to contract, or shorten, in order to hold the hip in the socket while at the same time asking it to expand in an effort to act like a shock absorber and dissipate the impact along the IT band. These countering actions place great stress on the hip and the IT band. This lead to a breakdown of the structures here causing problems over time.

IT band problems typically cause pain in the beginning when you place weight on your leg. As they progress, IT band issues begin to cause pain anytime you move the leg in any direction. The pain is usually on the outside of the hip near that bone and as the problem progresses it will travel down the outside of the leg to the knee or even below the knee.

So how do you prevent and/or treat IT band problems? The key is to make sure the structures that provide stability are doing their job to keep the hip joint open and make sure that the muscles of the hip are working in good combination with each other to ensure the hip moves smoothly. At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, it is our goal to ensure that if you are having problems with your hip and you come to us, the following occur:

  1. Our physical therapists will determine the exact cause(s) of your hip pain
  2. Educate you on why it has started and what you need to do to correct it
  3. Establish a plan of care that will eliminate the problem AND prevent it from returning

For those of you who are not having hip problems, it is always a good idea to have an expert therapist check out your hips. The hip joints and the surrounding structures are ones we rely on for every movement we make and keeping them healthy comes from a proper program of stretching and strengthening on a regular basis. The expert Physical Therapists at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center can outline the proper program for YOUR hip. This is critical because everyone’s hip is different and may or may not benefit from the “best hip workout” on the internet. Call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300 and CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you. 


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