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The Athletic Hip Series: What is IT Band Syndrome?

Post by Maggie Gebhardt, PT, DPT, OCS

IT, otherwise known as the Iliotibial Band, is a common source of lateral knee pain in runners. However, most people do not realize that this is an issue oftentimes stemming from the hip. Pain generated from disorders of the IT band can be present at its origination along the lateral pelvis all the way to the lateral knee. The IT band is usually over-utilized due to poor lower extremity mechanics. Weak hip musculature, primarily the glutes, cause increased reliance on the IT band to stabilize the knee. This scenario can cause the IT band to get caught in a “catch-22”: overuse of the IT band causes increased tightness of the TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae)- the muscle it attaches to, which can restrict the hip’s range of motion therefore limiting the glute’s ability to fire, and then we’re back to overuse of the ITB itself.

Runners especially when training for high mileage can get caught in this vicious cycle and it can seem like there is no end. Physical therapists have the unique ability to analyze the runner’s mechanics and figure just why the IT band is getting over-used. They can use a variety of manual therapies to improve extensibility of the IT band itself while strengthening the glutes and/or changing the faulty mechanics. Although it may seem like it, IT band syndrome is not a death sentence! You just need to find the right therapist who can guide you through the process. So, give us a call when you plan on training for your next race!

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