Runners Pain Dictionary – Part 4
ITB BAND SYNDROME – Most runners may not know the full form of ITB but almost all have a Eureka moment when this is mentioned and explained. Many would identify with it and be currently suffering from it to varying degrees.
The Iliotibial band (ITB) is the thick connective fascia (connective tissue) that runs on the lateral (outside) aspect of the hip and knee. It extends from the outside of the pelvis, traversing down the hip and inserts just below the knee. Given its anatomical location and its role in stabilizing the knee, this band is easily and most commonly subject to overuse injury by runners leading to discomfort and or inflammation (ITB Syndrome). It is also called into action a lot in other activities like cycling, hiking, squatting etc. So all activities that employ similar knee flexion/extension mechanics, will see the prevalence of this syndrome in their audience.
Symptoms usually present as tightness in the band and/or a feeling of pain along the outside of the knee, just above it or along the entire length of the band. There could be a sensation of pin pricks, stinging in the area or pain every time the heel strikes the ground while running, walking or going up and down stairs.
Apart from incorrect running mechanics there could be other factors responsible too. Muscular weakness and imbalances such as weak core, hip adductor muscles, low back and leg muscles; anatomical issues such as leg length discrepancy, high/low arches of the foot, excessive supination, genu varum (bow legs), abnormal tilt of the pelvis; and training habits such as inadequate warm ups/cool downs, excessive hill running, repeated squatting, excessive “toeing in” of feet during cycling, excessive or repeated running up and down stairs and constantly running along the same shoulder of a banked road can all be contributory factors. (Most roads have tapering along sides to allow water to drain. Constantly running on one side may be akin to running with a limb length discrepancy where the foot on the inside repeatedly undergoes more stretching than the one on the outside given the tapering surface). Foot strike and gait play an important role too. So does lack of any proper deep stretching and myofascial release program.
Treatment could range from following R.I.C.E protocol to compression, trigger point release or massage therapy. Left unattended, this will certainly have adverse effect on the anatomical chain often manifesting as pain in the foot and ankle later. Investing in a foam roller and learning to do foam rolling properly is one of the easiest and best ways of increasing longevity of your runs/activity and the health of your muscles. Paying attention to and taking corrective measures relating to mechanics of movement in your chosen sport cannot be over estimated.