Photo credit: 123RF / Cathy Yeulet

Photo credit: 123RF / Cathy Yeulet

Running is a popular form of exercise. But the risk of getting an overuse injury from running is pretty high – from 56% to 85% depending on studies. And the knees are the most commonly injured area of a runner’s body. Iliotibial band syndrome is a common overuse injury of the tissues located in the outer part of the thighs and knees. And if you’re a runner, it’s the second most common injury you can get.

Interestingly, iliotibial band syndrome is more common in women than men. This is likely due to the differences in how women run biomechanically compared to men. Many women tend to run with greater hip adduction in which the hips swing inward toward the body. Women also run with their hips turned inward and knees turned outward of the center line of their bodies. These differences in movement patterns strain the iliotibial band, a tendon that runs down the outside of the thigh and knee from the top of your pelvic bone to just below your knee where it attaches to the top part of your shinbone.

How Does Iliotibial Band Syndrome Occur?

The iliotibial band helps stabilize the knee joint. Normally, every time you bend your knee, the iliotibial band glides across against the bone thanks to a water-filled sac, called a bursa. But when the tendon is overused, it can tighten and rub against the bone, causing inflammation to occur in the outer part of the knee. When the band is inflamed, the bursa or tendon (or both) may swell.

Some common causes of iliotibial band syndrome include:

  • Being in poor physical condition.
  • Having poor training habits.
  • Not warming up before you run.
  • Having poor muscle flexibility.
  • Increasing your running levels too quickly.
  • Running on banked roads, which causes leg length discrepancies.
  • Having unequal leg length, which can cause your pelvis to tilt or for you to develop bowed legs.
  • Running too many hills. Running downhill puts stress on the iliotibial band.
  • Having excessive ankle pronation.

What Are the Symptoms of Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Photo credit: iStockphoto / Maridav

Photo credit: iStockphoto / Maridav

Common symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome are:

  • Pain on the outside of the knee.
  • Pain that runs from up the outside of your thigh to the hip.
  • Hip pain that feels like a snapping as the band snaps back and forth over the point of the hip.
  • Pain that goes away as the band is stretched out and become more flexible.
  • Decreased range of motion in the knee.
  • Pain that gets worse over time and doesn’t go away when you exercise.
  • Pain that gets worse when running down hills or sitting for a long time with your knee bent.

How Is Iliotibial Band Syndrome Treated? 

Once your doctor has diagnosed iliotibial band syndrome, treatment may include:

  • Continued running can aggravate iliotibial band syndrome.
  • Icing the painful area for 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and swelling.
  • Participating in physical therapy, which includes flexibility, strengthening and stretching exercises, to decrease inflammation.
  • Appling heat before doing stretching or strengthening exercises.
  • Having steroid injections at the site of inflammation.
  • If conservative treatments don’t work, having orthopedic surgery to 1) cut away the inflammation surrounding the iliotibial band; or 2) allow more room for iliotibial band to glide across the bone.

Once you can perform stretching and strengthening exercises without pain, you can gradually start running again. However, you will need to build up your distance and speed slowly.

ezRunner® Custom Orthotics Reduce Pronation when Running

Excessive ankle pronation and other biomechanical imbalances in the body, especially those involving the low back, pelvis, hips and knees can frequently cause iliotibial band syndrome in runners. Excessive ankle pronation is when your ankles tilt inward too much, causing you to carry your weight on your inner soles. This overpronation can cause the muscles in your legs to pull and your knees to turn inward, leading to decreased stability, a shorter stride and poorer balance.

If you think you’re overpronating or you have other biomechanical imbalances, you should have your gait evaluated by a certified professional. You also may want to consider wearing custom orthotics, like ezWalker® Performance Custom Orthotics and ezRunner® Performance Fit Orthotics. WalkEZStore custom orthotics strategically raise the arches of your feet and provide them with proper biomechanical support for greater stability and balance. With WalkEZStore custom orthotics, each step you take will be controlled throughout the gait cycle, so you’ll experience less stress and strain on your feet, knees, hips and lower back.

For more information on how WalkEZStore custom orthotics can improve your foot mechanics while walking and running, contact us. To order your pair of ezWalker® Custom Orthotics, click here. Or, to order your pair of ezRunner® Custom Orthotics, click here.

Because … when your feet feel good, you feel good.®