ITBS Causes and Prevention

ITBS Causes and Prevention

What is ITBS?

In the running world, there is a common but painful condition known as Iliotibial Band Syndrome, aka I.T.B.S., which causes pain from the outside of the leg from the hip down to the knee. This condition is often paired with decreased mobility, redness and swelling of the affected leg.

With I.T.B.S., suffers most frequently feel a burning pain on the side of their knee which could spread upwards in rare cases. Knee pain is the most common symptom which people use to identify this condition.

How to test for I.T.B.S.?

The simplest test is to bend the knee to a 45º angle and then examine the area for swelling, pain or sensitivity. Make sure to thoroughly check your knee band carefully, since that is not necessarily where you will feel pain, even though that is ‘injured’ Iliotibial Band you should attempt to recuperate.

What causes I.T.B.S.?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is usually caused by ill-prepared runners attempting to challenge downward elevation changes without properly training in advance. Downward elevation or downhill running or jogging should be properly prepared for, with a series of stretches and exercises purpose built to strengthen the muscles that are most likely to be strained as a result in the different conditions in which they are being used.

The lack of proper preparation for downhill elevation changes in particular causes stress to various, usually under-utilized muscles in the knee and surrounding joints / muscles / bone structure. I.T.B.S. is far more common after a race or an event than simply jogging or running down a hill; the inflammation to the knee band typically comes from over-utilization of the muscles, unless the downward jog is at an extreme grade. If the hill is steep enough, it is possible to get I.T.B.S. even at limited exposures.
That is why preparation for downhill running is important. Make sure to properly train, prepare and stretch before running downhill in a race. Proactive preparation can be accomplished quickly, but having I.T.B.S. could sideline a runner for days or even weeks.

What factors can contribute to I.T.B.S.?

While any sustained period of running downhill, or running down steep declines or grades can contribute to I.T.B.S., there are some additional factors any runner should consider. This checklist features some of the most common stressors that can cause inflammation in the knee, especially on challenging terrain.

Physical issues which could contribute to I.T.B.S. include:

  • Replacement hip or knees
  • Poor range of motion in the pelvis or hip
  • Bowlegged running
  • Hip rotation issues in the Gluteus medius or TFL muscle

Training or technique issues which could contribute to I.T.B.S. include:

  • A lack of proper incline / decline training
  • Incorrect, improper or shoddy equipment: shoes, impact dampening equipment or knee-brace
  • Abnormal running: Odd or off-putting techniques that are incorrect and physically inferior

What steps can be taken to prevent I.T.B.S.?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is more easily prevented than cured. Once someone is afflicted with the condition, they will have reduced mobility, pain and swelling. Time and a little effort will be the only way to reduce the effects of ITBS.

Stretch before running

Here is one of those silly mistakes that can runners sometimes make, out of simple arrogance. Stretch! It is among the first lessons any runner should learn, and stretching in general is important. Find some useful knee exercises that will keep your knee region relaxed to avoid inflaming the Iliotibial Band.

Working out the IT band should be a key component of any stretching routine, though it is obviously more important in stretches designed to prevent knee issues or IT band issues.

Stretching quads, lower back, thighs, shins, ankles, legs and the knees are all important.

Stretch before running

Here is one of those silly mistakes that can runners sometimes make, out of simple arrogance. Stretch! It is among the first lessons any runner should learn, and stretching in general is important. Find some useful knee exercises that will keep your knee region relaxed to avoid inflaming the Iliotibial Band.

Working out the IT band should be a key component of any stretching routine, though it is obviously more important in stretches designed to prevent knee issues or IT band issues.

Stretching quads, lower back, thighs, shins, ankles, legs and the knees are all important.

Prepare for elevation changes

Make sure you train to run up and down hills before you start running competitively or at a strong pace. Do not switch from running flatter routes to very hilly areas without a transitional phase; by all means, build up to hilly ranges slowly to ensure you can run more extreme routes without pain.

In fact, the earliest preventative measure a runner can take to reduce the risk of contracting I.T.B.S., besides stretching properly, is to start jogging downhill on very slight declines. Lower or shallower decline grades can help to strengthen and adjust the muscles, tendons, joints, rotator’s, etc. Remember that incline and decline training will often change foot angles and cause various adjustments to the running style being utilized; bear that in mind.

A simple method to improve downhill running preparation is to run on softer, more forgiving terrain. Asphalt is a harsh surface to run on, but softer surfaces like grass, dirt or gravel can be far more forgiving for the body. Practice on softer surfaces, working up to harder and harder surfaces. The regiment should be gradually adjusted to harder and harder exercises over time.

The runner should gradually work their way up to the steeper gradients. While there is additional work to be done, this sort of preparation work will likely decrease the potential for harming oneself downhill racing.

Use high quality equipment

Having solid, capable shoes can go a long way towards reducing aches and pains associated with running. Impact gear lessens the stress running puts on joints and muscles. Junk equipment nets junk results, however, so seeking the best reviewed and best available gear can greatly improve leg and ankle health. Some running specific equipment, such as specialty running soles, can go long ways towards maintaining joint health.

When training on softer surfaces to prepare for running with elevation changes, runners should look into cost-effective trail shoe options. Built with sturdier sidewalls, thicker rubber soles and toe and heel protection, trail-shoes will limit the risk of a variety of non-asphalt related running problems.

Take a look at specialty running gear. There are specially built running gear, such as knee-braces and impact shorts that protect the thighs and hamstrings. Consider investing in a pair of knee-braces that are strong enough to force a runner to adjust their running style to something far more forgiving than standard gear.

If the preventative measures did not work, you should see a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will also work with you to develop an individualized treatment program specific to your personal goals. He or she will offer tips to help you prevent your injury from reoccurring.

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