Why Does Your IT Band Hurt? What it Might Be (And What to Do About It)
Your IT band may never have crossed your mind; in fact, many people mistakenly think they’re having knee problems when it’s actually an IT band problem. The IT band is a thick band of tissue that stretches from the outer edge of your knee up to your hip. If it gets irritated (for some pretty common reasons) you may experience pain in some tell-tale areas. Here’s what to look for – and what to do about it:
Activities That Can Cause IT Band Trouble:
Bad news runners, you’re at the top of the list for IT band issues. In fact, repetitive activities like running, cycling, walking, hiking (especially long distances) can all irritate your IT band. This is often one of the “overuse injuries” – you’ll notice a problem after doing too much, too soon. Jumping in without a warm up, wearing improper or old gear, and avoiding stretching are other factors that can contribute to IT Band issues. You may also have a higher risk if you have poor form, are bow-legged, or have weak core muscles, hips, and/or glutes.
OW! What’s Going On? The Symptoms of IT Band Problems:
For most people who have IT Band pain, you’ll have pain at the outer part of your knee, typically above the joint. Plenty of people localize the pain to their knee, and worry immediately about the joint when it’s often the IT Band. You may also experience clicking and popping, aching, or even redness on the outer part of your knee. If IT Band problems persist, it will only worsen with activity. You may also experience pain in your upper thigh.
The IT Band can become inflamed for any of the reasons (or combined factors) listed above, and when it becomes irritated and tight, swelling of the IT Band itself and swelling of a bursa (sac with fluid) begin to limit the IT Band’s movement across the knee. This process can cause both stiffness with movement and pain.
- First off, rest! That means if you have a long run planned for tomorrow, you need to cancel your plans. No one likes a forced break, but it’s for the best if you’re dealing with a pesky IT Band. Regardless of your activity, if it’s causing pain, stop!
- Just add ice! Ice can help with the inflammation. Add ice to the area at your knee or hip (if you’re feeling pain up high on your leg).
- OTC anti-inflammatory medication. You can also try some over-the-counter medication to help reduce inflammation in the short term.
- Physical therapy. Although PT may initially be more involved than, say, icing your knee, ultimately it pays off much more in the long run! A physical therapist will assess your pain, your knee and IT Band, and likely be able to determine what’s causing and/or contributing to it. You’ll learn how to avoid future injury as well as how to best heal your IT Band with a mixture of office visits and at-home exercise. If weak muscles are part of the equation, bank on strengthening those for added support. Even better, if your knee pain turns out not to be your IT Band, a physical therapist will know the difference – and what to do about it!
The bottom line: if your outer knee hurts and you regularly engage in distance or repetitive activities, it may very well be an irritated IT Band. Try conservative treatment quickly, and for long term improvement, visit a physical therapist.
If your IT Band, knee, or other area of the musculoskeletal system is giving you a hard time, Body One Physical Therapy is here to help make things easy. We’re locally-owned and operated, with three locations serving Central Indiana: North Indianapolis/Carmel, Fishers, and Zionsville. Don’t wait to get back to living your life, call Body One today and we’ll help you move better, faster.