Iliotibial band (ITB) injuries in runners

How to avoid iliotibial injuries

Tightness in the iliotibial band (ITB) is a common cause of knee and hip pain. The iliotibial band consists of a band of collagen fibers, which are not elastic in nature, and attach to the pelvis at one end and just below the knee on the outside of the thigh at the other. It is also attached to part of the thigh bone. Here's our guide on how to avoid ITB-related injuries.

It is the ITB which help us to remain upright when standing. When running, the position of the ITB changes slightly and alters the workload of other muscles, especially those which bend the hip. Tightness in the ITB is what can cause problems for runners.

Symptoms of a tight ITB

  1. Snapping or a clicking sound or sensation around the hip caused by the tight band flicking over the thigh bone during running.
  2. Constant rubbing of the ITB on the pocket of fluid — the bursa — at the top of the femur can lead to inflammation and pain on the outside of the hip. After running it may be painful to lie on the affected side.
  3. Pain on the outside of the knee during and after running.
  4. Anterior knee pain during running.

Causes of this running injury

  • Wearing shoes worn on the outside edge. This can put extra stress on the outside of the knee, causing an overstretch.
  • A muscular imbalance of the thighs.
  • Running on an uneven surfaces.
  • A sudden increase in training.
  • Lack of proper warm-up before running.

Treating and preventing ITB syndrome

Firstly check your running shoes for signs of uneven wear. Check for the camber on the training area to see if it is uneven, and reduce your training distances. Try reducing the length of your stride to decrease the pull on the ITB. Also reduce the number of training sessions until symptoms start to settle.

A warm pack or covered hot water bottle over the sore area may ease symptoms and relax the soft tissue.

Stretching exercises

Stretching should be done as a treatment for ITB syndrome, but should also be included as part of the running warm-up and cool-down.

How to stretch the iliotibial band

Standing up, cross your left leg behind the right leg. Push your left hip out to the side as you bend your body to the right. You should feel a stretch along the outer left hip and thigh. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

A note of caution: if symptoms persist, make sure you consult a suitable professional as further assessment and treatment may be required. It may well be worth consulting a professional, such as a sports therapist, to find out specific stretches to prevent and cure ITB syndrome.

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