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Treatment and Prevention of Illiotibial Band Syndrome

In a previous article I reviewed a painful knee condition with runners, Patella Femoral Syndrome. One of the main objectives of that article was to inform you that pain in any joint can often be traced back to muscular imbalances.

The same concept holds true for Iliotibial Band Syndrome. This is another common injury with runners and can often be confused with the earlier discussed Patella Femoral Syndrome.

What the two conditions have in common is pain felt on the lateral aspects of the knee when running, squatting or climbing stairs.

Trying to self diagnose the two would not be well advised. As always, I recommend seeking the counsel of a trained professional if you suffer from knee pain.

How Illiotibial Band Syndrome occurs…

I’ll do my best to give you the basis for what’s going on with Illiotibial Band Syndrome without the unnecessary technical details. Here’s a quick lesson in anatomy. The Iliotibial Band is not a muscle but actually a strong band of connective tissue that runs from your hip to the knee.

The Illiotibial Band will naturally undergo tension when the knee bends and straightens back out again. You have a thin bursa, or fluid filled sac that minimizes friction where the Illiotibial Band connects to your knee. If the friction becomes too great due to any number of reasons the bursa becomes compromised you’ll have irritation and pain at the joint.

The “reasons why” part may be attributed to a host of related issues but the answer commonly involves some combination of overuse and muscular imbalance.

Steps to avoid Illiotibial Band Syndrome…

Most runners will tell you that you need to change your shoes after every 3-4 months and avoid excessive running on slopes. Always begin by looking at the obvious factors that could be leading to your knee pain.

Hitting the pavement day in and day out will put a lot of compression on your knees. Telling an avid runner that they need to scale back the frequency and duration of their runs is often met with some resistance but sometimes you simply do need to adjust your training.

Once again I don’t want to create a simple checklist for identifying the causes of Illiotibial Band Syndrome but I’ll share with you my experience. Over the years I’ve found distance runners will commonly have tight hip flexors and hamstrings combined with inhibited glutes and hip abductors.



This combination is a recipe for tightness at the Illiotibial Bands and subsequent pain in the knees due to tracking problems.

Specific instruction on how to correct these imbalances is saved for a future article but it’s important to understand that biomechanical problems are often underlying causes of Illiotibial Band Syndrome.

Rest, ice, and the use of anti-inflammatory medications are always on the front line of treatment but you’ll more than likely also need a holistic approach to recovery that includes stretching and strength training.

Remember you need to treat the causes of the problem and not just the symptoms. Backing off your long runs for a while and popping some Advil won’t do the trick. Correcting Illiotibial Band Syndrome is often more complicated than what I can describe here, but I hope this has given you some understanding of the nature of this common running injury.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston Personal Trainer, fitness expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE trial of his Charleston Personal Training Programs by clicking the link above.

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Category: Corrective Exercise.