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IT Band Syndrome or Lower Body Discomfort Impacting Activities


By Cierra Washington, ATC

You’ve probably heard of IT Band syndrome. But what is it exactly? Let’s start with the name. The ‘IT’ refers to the iliotibial band that runs along the outer portion of the thigh. When people refer to the IT band, they often have the misconception that it’s a muscle. Actually, the IT band is the long tendon of the tensor fascia latae (TFL). The TFL performs multiple hip functions and also helps stabilize our torsos.

So what is IT band syndrome and what can cause this condition?

This problem commonly occurs because of three things:

  1. Increased tightness
  2. Lack of stretching
  3. Overuse

Remember, the IT band is the long tendon in the TFL. Due to the TFL’s importance in simple every day activities such as walking, sitting and climbing stairs, it constantly remains contracted with little time for a stretch. This in turn means increased tightness. A lack of stretching comes into play simply because most people are not aware that their IT band is even tight. So they continue going about their activities until they start to feel symptoms. The third and primary contributor to this condition is overuse. IT band syndrome is most often associated with runners, whether they are just starting to run or if they have been running marathons for years. As the IT band gets closer to the knee, it becomes narrower and can begin to rub on surrounding structures. This causes inflammation and eventually inactivity because of pain and discomfort.

How do some runners not experience this syndrome at all? Some runners do a really good job of listening to their bodies. IT band syndrome isn’t an acute injury. It happens overtime and is frequently ignored by even seasoned athletes. What you should do is recognize when you start feeling some initial discomfort along the outside of your leg. Think of this as a warning light in your body. Implement a regular stretching routine and incorporate foam rolling. Strengthen your core and hips. It can also be a good idea to get a gait analysis for walking and running.

Stretching and foam rolling are the two easy ways to loosen your IT band. These will help release the pressure along the outside of your knee. Strengthening your core not only improves body mechanics up and down the chain, but a strong core will provide stability for your hips. Therefore, they’re stronger and you are not having to walk, run or move in general with compensatory movements that can set you up for injury or worsen symptoms. As both areas become stronger, your hip and knee alignment becomes more ‘normal,’ which decreases the strain on the IT band. A gait analysis is a functional test to see how your muscles move with one another. This can show your therapist or athletic trainer areas that are weak and need some targeted strengthening.

At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we can help you address your IT band syndrome and more importantly, give you tools to help you prevent that condition from returning. Through an evaluation, our therapists will determine the root cause of your pain and discomfort, as well as any secondary problems that may be contributing. We will provide you with an individualized rehabilitation plan geared to your goals while also increasing your strength, balance and improving your gait pattern so you can return to the activities you love without pain!

Call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300 and schedule your evaluation. Need a stretching routine but not sure where to start? CLICK HERE for a full stretching demo with one of our athletic trainers. 

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