How to Treat IT Band Syndrome

How to Treat IT Band Syndrome

IT band syndrome is a common overuse injury that causes pain on the outside of the knee. It is most commonly seen in runners and cyclists. Competitive rowers, skiers, and athletes playing soccer, basketball, and field hockey may also experience IT band syndrome.

The iliotibial band (IT band) is a thick band of tissue that runs outside the thigh, from the hip to the knee. It helps stabilize the knee joint and allows it to extend fully.

When the IT band becomes too tight, it can rub against the outside of the knee joint, causing pain and inflammation. This is known as IT band syndrome.

IT Band Syndrome Symptoms

The main symptom of IT band syndrome is pain on the outside of the knee, just above the joint. The pain may worsen when you start exercising and may improve as you warm up. However, the pain may also get worse as you continue to exercise.

Other symptoms of IT band syndrome include:

  • Swelling on the outside of the knee
  • Tenderness on the outside of the knee
  • A clicking or popping sound when you bend or straighten your knee
  • Difficulty bending or straightening your knee

IT Band Syndrome Diagnosis

Your doctor will diagnose IT band syndrome based on your medical history and a physical exam. During the physical exam, your doctor will look for pain, swelling, and tenderness on the outside of your knee. They may also ask you to perform certain movements to test the range of motion in your knee.

Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to rule out other causes of your knee pain.

How to Treat IT Band Syndrome

Based on your needs and severity, your best IT band syndrome treatment options will depend on your injuries. Overuse injuries such as the Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB) are common among cyclists and runners.

It is often caused by tightened ligaments or poor running form. Rest and stretching are two options for conservative treatment. A medical evaluation is required if the injury is more serious. 

Home Remedies

ITB can cause hip and knee pains that interfere with physical activity. ITB is an overuse condition, so rest is a good option. You can find more home remedies below to restore your knee to peak condition. 

Cold Therapy Pack

Cold therapy packs are used at home to treat lateral knee pain caused by IT band syndrome. The cold reduces swelling by decreasing blood flow to the affected area, limiting fluid that can be pushed into the tissues. The pain relief that cold therapy provides is also possible by numbing and interrupting the pain signal. A Cold therapy pack is used, or you could even submerge your knee in an ice water bath. To avoid skin damage, limit the time you icing to 20 minutes. 

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    Stretches and Exercises

    IT band syndrome can be caused by weak connective tissue around your hip muscles. Strengthening exercises that target muscles such as the quadriceps, gluteus medius, and hamstrings can help prevent injury and support your joints. A stretching program can help improve your mobility and reduce joint stiffness. Wait to start stretching and exercising until the pain outside your knees subsides. 

    Massage

    Massage for IT band pain can be used to loosen tension and soreness. The massage therapist will focus on your hip, leg, and lower back muscles. To help you move pain-free, they will remove any trigger points or muscle knots. 

    Medication

    IT band pain can be treated at home with over-the-counter medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, reduce swelling and pain. These medications have anti-inflammatory properties that make them so effective. Talk to your doctor before taking any new medicines to avoid side effects.

    Medical Treatment

    Sometimes, IT band syndrome requires more than home remedies to treat the injury. If this happens, it's time for you to consult your doctor or physical therapist. Look below to see how they can help you get better faster. 

    Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist can help with injuries such as IT band syndrome. Your first appointment with your physical therapist will involve a thorough examination of your injury. Then, they will devise a customized treatment plan. They will often recommend targeted exercises and stretching. They will also address other risk factors, such as poor running and weak hip muscles. 

    Therapeutic Ultrasound

    Therapeutic Ultrasound can be used to heat the muscles and break up scar tissue. It also increases blood flow to the affected area and can help speed healing. Ultrasound treatments can be done at your doctor's or physical therapist's office. It is quick and painless, with few side effects. 

    Corticosteroids

    Corticosteroid injections are a powerful form of steroid injection administered directly to the area of injury. These injections can help reduce swelling and pain. Steroid injections can't be used for long and are not recommended for everyone. Talk to your doctor about whether this treatment is suitable. 

    Surgery

    Your doctor may recommend IT Band Release Surgery if all other options have failed. It involves making a small incision at the kneecap to remove the IT band that rubs against your thighbone. This outpatient procedure can take up to six weeks for a full recovery. 

    Prevention

    Prevention is the best medicine. Our tips will help you avoid ITB syndrome and keep your knee joints pain-free.

    • Warm up before exercise. Warming up before exercise helps to prepare your muscles and tendons for activity, which can help to reduce your risk of injury.
    • Stretch regularly. Stretching the muscles in your thighs and knees can help to improve flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
    • Wear supportive shoes. Wearing supportive shoes can help to reduce stress on your knees.
    • Avoid overuse. If you experience pain in your knees, stop the activity and rest.
    • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on your knees, so maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce your risk of injury.

    Consider wearing knee braces if you are active in sports or other activities that stress your knees. Knee braces can help to support the knee joint and reduce the risk of injury.

    Here are some additional tips for preventing IT band syndrome:

    • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Avoid doing too much too soon.
    • Listen to your body. If you feel pain in your knees, stop the activity and rest. Continuing the activity could make the injury worse.
    • Cross-train. Variety is the spice of life! Doing different types of activities can help to reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

    Finding Safe IT Band Syndrome Treatment Options

    IT band syndrome, which causes pain around the knee outside, is painful. This condition is common among runners and athletes who bend their knees frequently. This condition can be treated at home using rest, ice, and medication. If your injury is severe, you may need medical attention from a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor. Remember to take good care of your joints and see your doctor if you have any questions about treating your injury.

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