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  • Writer's picturePursuit of Motion Physiotherapists

IT Band Syndrome (iliotibial band syndrome) Causes & Exercises

The Iliotibial Band, or IT Band, is a thick strip of connective tissue made of collagen fibers and fibroblast cells.

This allows it to withstand forces from the connected quadriceps and hamstring muscles. It runs from the lateral side of the hip, down the outside of the thigh, and to the top of the shinbone.

The IT Band works with the quadriceps and hamstring muscles to assist in abduction, internal rotation, and flexion of the thigh. It also helps to support knee extension. Because of this, it is associated with forward, backward, and lateral motions coming from the lower extremities. This makes the IT Band an important contributor to forward, backward, and lateral lower-extremity movements, as well as stabilization.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is typically an overuse injury that causes pain on the lateral (outside) aspect of the knee joint and distal thigh. IT Band Syndrome tends to be caused by friction between the IT band cross section and the knee joint. The friction between these structures can lead to inflammation and tightening, causing the typical pain associated with ITBS.

Without inflammation, a fluid-filled sac called ‘bursa’ in the knee joint allows the IT band to glide over the joint during movement. When the IT band is inflamed, there is more friction between these structures, particularly with bending activities. Symptoms that accompany pain can include clicking, popping, or a snapping sensation between the knee and hip joint.

IT Band Syndrome Causes

IT Band Syndrome is often caused by overuse of muscles that bend the knee, therefore, it is common in runners, hikers, and cycles.

Treatment for this issue includes rest and reducing or modifying physical activities that are performed regularly. There is also the option of surgical intervention, which is quite rare.

Factors that can make one more susceptible to experiencing IT Band Syndrome include:

  • Increases in work/activity levels

  • Previous injuries

  • Weak hip, glute, or abdominal muscles

  • Flat feet

  • Bowed legs

  • Knee arthritis

IT band syndrome is more likely to affect athletes who play soccer, basketball, or any sport that places excessive pressure on the knee joints.

A lack of proper warm-up, cool-down, or rest can also increase the likelihood of an athlete experiencing IT Band Syndrome.

Treatment Through Exercise

Try these exercises to help with IT Band Tightness :

- Side Lying Hip Abduction

- Forward Fold with Legs Crossed

- Foam Rolling / Self-Release

- Banded Glute Bridges

- Hip Hikes

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