IT Band Syndrome in Athletes

Endurance sports are worth all the hype because of the tremendous benefits it offers athletes participating in them. They do not only improve your physical health but also promote your mental and spiritual health. The benefits of endurance sports such as running, swimming and cycling include; improved levels of body fitness, improved sleep, increased metabolism and improved mental strength. Despite its amazing benefits, engaging in endurance activities is accompanied by its disadvantages, with a high risk of injury being a major disadvantage.

The iliotibial band syndrome, also known as the IT band syndrome, is a common injury associated with endurance activities where you have to bend your knee repeatedly. Activities such as long-distance running and cycling fall perfectly into this category. Usually, when athletes experience sharp pain and tenderness outside the knee or around the hip, an IT band syndrome is suspected.

What Causes IT Band Syndrome?

IT band syndrome is an injury of overuse of the connective tissues in the outer part of the thigh and knee. It occurs when the iliotibial band gets irritated, tight or inflamed. The iliotibial band is a strong and thick band of tissues that runs from the outside of your hipbones to the outside of your thigh and knee to attach to the top of your shinbone.

The IT band performs an important function which is the stabilisation of the outer part of your knee through its range of motions. When the IT band crosses over the bone excessively due to repeated flexion and extension of the knee, it can result in the irritation and inflammation of nearby tissues, thereby causing pain. IT band syndrome can affect one leg or both legs. It is referred to as bilateral iliotibial band syndrome when it affects both legs.

IT Band Syndrome Symptoms

A sharp or burning pain outside the knee is the most common symptom of iliotibial band syndrome. The pain usually increases with running, cycling or other activities that involves excessive bending of the knees. The pain can sometimes radiate along the IT band up to the outer side of the thigh, reaching the hip. In some patients, the pain can be accompanied by a snapping, popping or clicking sound outside the knee. A slight swelling can also be noticed on the outside of the knee; this is, however not the case for everybody. The outer part of your knee can be warm to the touch and look discoloured.

IT Band Syndrome Risk Factors in Athletes

IT band syndrome is a condition that is commonly found among distance runners, hikers and cyclists. The iliotibial band gets inflamed or irritated when it becomes stretched too tight and rubs against the bone. There are several factors that are implicated in the cause of this syndrome. Some of the major factors include the following:

Weak Glutes

When your hip muscles are not strong enough, they allow your pelvis to drop or make your knee turn excessively as you run. Recall that the IT band is attached to the knee and hip, and as such it gets pulled tight when this occurs. Here's what happens, a weak glute on one side causes the pelvis to drop on the other side, thereby pulling the IT band tight.

Excessive Foot Pronation

When there's excessive foot pronation, it causes the lower leg to turn in more. The IT band is attached to the lower leg, and as such, causesvthe IT band to tighten and compresses it further against the outer knee.

Downhill Running

Running a long downhill race will tire out normally strong hip muscles. This makes it difficult for the muscles to stabilise the pelvis, which makes it drop and, in turn, pulls and tightens the IT band.

Other Physiological Causes

Preexisting tightness of the iliotibial band - This is when an individual is born with an iliotibial band that is tight.

Differences in length of legs - When a leg is shorter than the other one, it can potentially pull the IT band off the longer leg and make it tight.

Bowed legs - This causes your knees to spread and makes your feet join your ankles. This, in turn, pulls on your IT band and tightens it.

Training Mistakes

Training errors can also cause athletes to develop symptoms of IT band syndrome. Here are some of the common training errors;

- Running or training on the same side of the road or on track

- Training in improper or worn-out shoes can alter the mechanics in the hips and knee.

- A sudden increase in intensity and volume of training.

- Running on a surface that is curved or tilted.

- Warming up before exercises too quickly

IT Band Syndrome Treatment and Prevention

There are several treatment options available for IT band syndromes. Some of these treatments are things that can be carried out at home, while others require that you visit a healthcare provider. Let's take a quick look at some treatment options available


Rest is very important in treating IT band syndrome. It's required that activities that can aggravate the condition is cut off, and the tissues that have been irritated can rest.

Icing the Affected Area

The use of ice for the treatment of pain is very common in sports injuries. Placing the ice on the side of the knee helps to decrease inflammation and ultimately reduce pain. It is, however, important to not see the application of ice as a cure but rather as a short-term solution. It is imperative that the underlying cause of the IT band syndrome is known.


IT band cannot be stretched. It can, however, benefit from stretching of muscles that are attached to it. The muscles attached to it include the glutes and the lateral quad. Stretching these muscle reduces muscle tone, thereby reducing the pull on the IT band. Stretching helps to relieve tightness of the IT band and also promotes its strength and flexibility.

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Strengthening Glutes and Hips Muscles

Strengthening the hips and gluteal muscles is a very important and valuable treatment in iliotibial band syndrome. This is because these muscles are responsible for the femur's rotation and rotation of the pelvis. They also make sure that the IT band is neither compressed nor pulled away from the hip

Massage and Foam Rolling

Physiotherapists use massage as part of their treatment plan for IT band syndrome. They also recommend the use of foam rollers for their patients. In the early stages of the syndrome, massage helps to reduce pain and discomfort. It should be noted, however, that massage itself is not always a cure.

Local Acupressure Using Flexelf Restrain Knee Brace

Flexelf's restrain knee brace has been a great help to anyone that has pain in their knee. The knee brace helps to relieve knee pain naturally and stimulates an immune response. Flexelf massage helps to increase blood circulation. The acupressure knee massage helps to relieve pain by stimulating the secretion of endorphins and other neurotransmitters. Flexelf restrain knee brace are amazing and should be owned by every endurance athlete. It does not only relieve you of knee pain, but it also helps the body heal.

IT Band Syndrome Prevention

Iliotibial band syndrome can be prevented in some cases. Below are some of the things to take note of in order to prevent IT band syndrome.

- It's essential you start exercising slowly and increase your activities gradually if you're new to it.

- Avoid worn-out shoes by replacing your shoes regularly.

- Avoid curved or tilted surfaces, and run on even surfaces.

- Warm-up and cool down slowly before and after exercise.

- Ensure you are always using the correct technique regardless of the activity you engage yourself in.

- Regularly stretch your outer thighs and hamstrings.

- While running on a track, ensure you run in both directions.


IT band syndrome is a common overuse injury that affects long-distance runners or people who bend their knees often. In different cases of people with IT band syndrome, different factors are responsible for it. It's important to know the underlying cause of your IT band so you can know the treatment plan to go ahead with.

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