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Prevent IT Band Syndrome Pain

Use these tips to help prevent the pain of iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome

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Updated September 04, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome, or ITBS, is one of the most common causes of pain that is felt on the outside of the knee. It is most common in runners, hikers and cyclists, but any athlete who plays sports that require repeated knee flexion can find themselves dealing with IT Band pain.

The Iliotibial Band is a tough, thick fibrous tissue composed of fascia, that runs along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the kneecap and tibia of the lower leg. Repetitive flexing and extending of the knee (as occurs in running) may result in friction and inflammation of the IT band and/or the bursa between the IT band and the femoral epicondyle of the knee. Over time this irritation leads to IT Band syndrome.

Tips for Preventing IT Band Syndrome

The following quick tips can help you prevent IT Band syndrome.
  • Use a Foam Roller to Release the IT Band. If you have IT Band tightness, using a foam roller regularly is one of the best things you can do at home to help relief your pain.

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  • Replace running shoes regularly
    It's important to change your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles, or every 3 to 4 months. Worn shoes absorb less shock which may lead to an increased incidence of IT Band pain. If you run lots of miles, consider alternating between two pairs of shoes to allow 24 hours for the shoe's shock absorbing cushion to return to its optimal form before running in them again.

  • Slowly increase running mileage. It's important to add mileage and intensity very slowly to let you body adjust to the demands of running. Doing too much, to soon is a very common cause of overuse injuries.

  • Gradually add hill running workouts
    Hill running, particularly downhill running, increases friction on the IT Band and is tough on the quadriceps. As the quads fatigue, they lose the ability to stabilize and control the knee tracking position, which also increases stress on the IT band.

  • Avoid training on uneven surfaces
    If you are prone to knee pain, be careful of the surface you run on. Graded or angled surfaces often increase strain and tension on the IT Band of the downhill leg.

  • Keep the knee joint covered and warm
    May athletes fail to protect the knees adequately in cold temperatures. The IT Band is particularly susceptible to the cold and experts recommend that athletes keep the knees covered during sports when the temperatures are below 60 degrees.

  • Always cool down and stretch after exercise
    Use a foam roller to release the IT Band after exercise, when the muscles are warm and supple. If you have any IT Band tenderness or pain, apply ice after exercise as necessary to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Review the Checklist for Running Overuse Injuries
    Following some general guidelines will help you prevent IT Band Syndrome, as well as many other common sports injuries.

Sources

Fredericson M, et al: Quick solutions for iliotibial band syndrome. Physician & Sportsmedicine. 2000, Volume 28.

Khaund, R. et al. Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Common Source of Knee Pain. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Apr 15;71(8):1545-1550.

Fredericson M,et al. Quantitative analysis of the relative effectiveness of 3 iliotibial band stretches. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;83:589–92

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