The iliotibial band or IT Band is a long piece of tissue that helps you move your hips. It also allows you to extend, abduct, and rotate your hips. This band spans from the hip to the knee and shin bone.
IT band pain or lateral hip pain is a common complaint in many athletes. IT band syndrome describes inflammation, irritation, or other injury-related processes that are affecting this particular area.
Are you experiencing discomfort in your IT band? Read on to know more about it, its common causes, its symptoms, and possible ways on how to prevent it. Additionally, learn the taping protocol that may help alleviate the discomfort that you’re experiencing in the area.
Table of Contents
What are the common causes of IT Band (Lateral Hip) pain?
IT band pain often comes when the Tensor Fascia Latae is tight. It’s a large tendon that runs down the side of your thigh and attaches below the knee.
When the tendon is tight, the entire structure will be tight. It also puts pressure on the hip bone that has the Bursa - a fluid-filled sac. The Achilles tendon runs over the top of it. It’ll cause inflammation of the sac - which then leads to pain.
IT band tightness can also be caused by overuse either from increased distance or intensity of running, competitive sports involving sprinting, climbing stairs/hills (commonly associated with running).
Other factors that can lead to this include poor conditioning prior to starting an exercise program, weakness in hip muscles that control leg movement (gluteus medius muscle), and IT band becoming too short after compensating for weaknesses which causes them to tighten up preventing their normal gliding motion over the lateral femoral epicondyle of the hip.
Some of the most common causes of IT band pain includes:
- Not resting enough between workouts
- Exercising too long and pushing too hard
Some folks may be more prone to developing IT band including:
- Bowed knee
- Knee Arthritis
- Having a leg longer than the other
- Rotating your foot or leg inward when walking or running
What are the common symptoms of IT Band (Lateral Hip) pain?
IT band pain is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Pain in the side of the hip
- Pain at the side of your knee
- Clicking at the lateral knee, often when running up and down the stairs
If IT band pain is not treated, it can lead to other injuries such as bursitis, tendinopathy, chondromalacia patella (irritation in the knee), trochanteric bursitis (inflammation at the site where IT bands attach to greater trochanter), or iliopsoas syndrome (IT band compresses iliopsoas tendon which causes pain when doing activities that cause hip flexion).
What is the treatment for IT band pain or lateral hip pain?
Some of the treatments for pain in the IT band can include:
- Applying an ice pack or ice massage
- Stretching exercises
- Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Physical therapy modalities such as soft tissue mobilization techniques and ultrasound
A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce IT band swelling and pain. A doctor can determine whether steroid injections are appropriate for ITBs during a physical examination of the injured area.
IT band syndrome responds favorably to treatment consisting of ITB stretching and ITB massage by a physical therapist under the guidance of a doctor.
Even though IT band and ITB pain are non-inflammatory in nature, ITBs should be treated with ice packs to reduce swelling and relieve pain following any activity that may have aggravated it.
A physical therapist can help stretch and massage the IT band and other soft tissue structures which will help improve their flexibility and function while decreasing tension.
The therapist will likely recommend performing these stretches multiple times during each day since they tend to decrease as an individual sits or stands throughout the course of the day.
How do you apply kinesiology tape to the IT band or lateral hip?
In this section, learn how to use kinesiology tape to decompress the area. Taping may help alleviate the discomfort that you feel. You can follow the video presentation below.
- Prepare three short I-strips. The aim is to tape in multiple directions to lift the skin and to help decompress the area.
- Take the first strip and apply 10% tension. Place it over the hip bone. Next, take your second strip and apply it on top of the first strip, forming an X. Then, get the third strip and place it on top of the first two strips. These two strips should also have 10% tension.
- Then, measure and cut the tape from the hip area up until the knee.
- Place the leg in a lengthened position. Get your last strip and taper off tension.
- Always remember to round your edges. Rub the tape in for proper adhesion.
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How do you prevent IT band pain or lateral hip pain from developing?
IT Band pain can be prevented by regularly performing IT band stretches before and after physical activity. It can also be prevented by regularly performing stretches both statically and dynamically to ensure that the area is supple enough for any athletic activity or daily activity.
To prevent IT band pain, runners should increase their mileage gradually- no more than ten percent every week- to allow for time for IT band strengthening and stretching exercises.
IT bands can be strengthened by doing sports such as cycling or swimming. Runners who have been diagnosed with excessive pronation should stretch the iliotibial band daily to ensure that the IT band is not too tight when running.
Stretching is effective for treating ITBs because they reduce tension on iliotibial bands. But it should only be done when muscles are warmed up before activity as cold muscles can be more susceptible to injury. Stretching should never cause pain, but if it does then it's not being done correctly.
Some of the easiest ways to prevent IT band pain from developing include:
- Getting enough warm-up or stretching especially for your IT band, hamstrings, and thighs
- Having enough recovery time after a workout
- Have good running shoes
- Run on a level surface or flat surface
- Foam rolling to loosen up your IT band
Now that you know more about the common causes and symptoms of IT band pain as well as its treatment and prevention, enjoy your active lifestyle more fully!