Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) Prevention and Treatment

Iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome can be a painful and frustrating injury common in runners. Pain usually resides in the outside of the knee and sometimes in the hip. The IT band is a ligament which runs from the hip down to the knee and is used to stabilize the knee and hip and surrounding muscles. If this ligament becomes inflamed, as mentioned previously, it can result in pain on the outside of the knee or hip.

The most common cause of Iliotibial band syndrome is over use through an increase in exercise and more specifically running. To help prevent this injury one should begin an exercise program slowly and gradually add mileage. Experts recommend no more than a 10% increase in mileage from week to week. Another quick thing to check is the condition of your running shoes. If the shoes are worn out, they will no longer provide adequate support and protection. The rule of thumb is that a pair of shoes will last 300-500 miles.

Stretching areas surrounding the IT Band are important to keep things loose. An IT Band specific stretch can be done by crossing one leg in front of the other and leaning into the hip of the back leg. So if the left leg is in front, the torso would lean to the left and consequently stretch the IT Band on the right leg. The stretch will be felt in the hip and slightly on the outside of the knee if performed properly.

Another way to stretch out the IT Band and the surrounding muscles is using a foam roller. To use it, lay on your side, put the foam rollerunderneath then slowly roll your leg along it. It may be tender and possibly a bit painful especially if the IT Band is significantly inflamed. Try to do 10 rolls per leg and repeat at least on a daily basis. Over time you'll notice increased mobility and reduced tightness. A foam roller is a great investment towards recovery and is available from Amazon for just $25.

Strengthening exercises are also beneficial. A specific strengthening exercise for the IT Band is laying on one's side, lifting the top leg, and holding for a second or two. This helps build strength in the areas surrounding the IT Band. In addition to this exercise, other good core exercises to perform would be lifting the bottom leg to strengthen the groin muscles. Leg raises while laying on the back will strengthen the quadriceps muscles. Of course crunches and back extensions are also important in any good core strengthening program. A large number of repetitions is not necessary and the whole routine can be completed in less than 5 minutes.

If the runner feels swelling or more specific pain occurring in the knee or hip areas, he or she should ice the area for 15-20 minutes. This should be followed by a period of allowing the skin to warm back up to room temperature then can be repeated. One can also use an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to help reduce swelling but should not rely on this solution long term. Massage can also be beneficial in some cases.

The best way to reduce pain and eventually return to full speed is to rest with no running. Low impact activities as walking, bicycling, or an elliptical machine can be pursued as alternatives to help maintain fitness in the interim. If the person has access to a pool, a good exercise in addition to swimming is pool running. This can be conducted either in a shallow part of the pool with feet touching the ground or if a flotation belt is available can be performed in the deep end. Aerobic benefits can be obtained as well as utilizing running specific muscles in pool running.

Rest can be frustrating to those who are used to exercising regularly but will ultimately help the runner to get back to the activity they love more quickly.

This article is also posted at Helium.

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