Is it hard to climb stairs? Is it difficult to enjoy your daily walk or hike? Is it hard to get up from the floor after playing with the kids/grandkids? Do you have pain after running or exercising? Are you worried that sitting too long on an upcoming vacation will bring knee pain and slow you down? Concerned that your kids or grandkids will have to “help” you along during your next long weekend visit?
Do you have knee pain but are unsure why and where it is coming from? You are not alone! Here at Balance Within Physical Therapy, we see many clients who are experiencing the same thing. Many of our clients visit us for solutions to their unknown knee pain. In fact, knee pain is the second most common complaint after back pain in adults of all ages.
Knee pain can develop from a number of sources. One common cause of knee pain is IT Band syndrome. So what is this IT Band Syndrome and how is it causing you pain?
What is your IT Band?
Your IT band also known as the iliotibial band or Maissiat’s band is a long connective tissue or fascia that runs along the outside of your leg. It starts at the hip bone and runs down to your shinbone. This band of tissue helps to stabilize, extend and rotate your hips. It also works to stabilize and move the side of your knee.
What is IT Band Syndrome?
When the IT band comes tight, inflamed or irritated, it can start to rub against the bone (either at the hip or else down along the outside of the knee). This is called IT Band Syndrome. It is a common injury among runners and cyclists but can also occur from repetitive use (stairs and walking) and even from sitting too long. There is good news here; 80-90% of all knee pain can be corrected without the need of evasive surgery or medication. The key is finding the root cause of the pain and addressing it.
Why do I have IT Band Issues? Common Risk Factors
Some risk factors that could lead to IT Band troubles include:
- Weak hips
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time, causing this tissue to shorten
- Repetitive activity – running
- Weak knee and/or hip stabilizers
- Unbalanced leg length due to pelvic torsion
- Weak abdominal and/ or glute muscles
- Knee or hip arthritis
- Natural outward rotation of your foot
- Walking or running on a track or bowed surface
- Prior tightening of the IT Band
IT Band Pain Relief – How to Ease Pain Now
- Rest – Taking time off from activities to give your body time to recover is important (but if you still have symptoms after a week or two of resting, more help is likely needed).
- Apply ice/heat – Both can ease pain. Icing will help reduce the swelling and heat will ease stiffness.
- Daily stretches to loosen the band
- Low impact activity – walking, biking, water exercises – You may not feel like moving with your knee pain but low impact activity can assist. Activities such as walking, biking, yoga or Tai Chi can keep your joints from stiffening up and causing more pain. Water exercises are also a great way to keep moving. The buoyancy of the water puts less pressure on the knee and can be quite refreshing as well. But if you keep on having to modify your activities, you likely could benefit from seeing a Physical Therapist to help you troubleshoot things so you can get back to your normal activities!
- Physical Therapy – more on that next
Helpful Stretches for the IT Band
Watch this video by Dr. Sarah as she demonstrates some IT Band stretches to help ease your pain now. These stretches can be done daily from the comfort of your own home. Give these a try and hopefully they will help! If you’re still having trouble after a week or two, come see us and we’ll help you troubleshoot what else is needed to get you feeling your best.
Is Physical Therapy Good for IT Band Syndrome?
The expert physical therapists at Balance Within have years of experience with helping clients overcome their IT Band pain. We can assist by:
- Providing exercises to loosen and stretch your IT Band
- Providing exercises to strengthen your core, hips and glutes to better support your knee, taking strain off of the IT band
- Providing Specialized hands-on myofascial release (a game changer for these tight tissues!)
- Working with you to adjust your training schedule and troubleshooting things so you can return to your favorite hobbies, sports and activities pain-free.
- Assisting with footwear choices – orthotic inserts, proper shoes, etc to help relieve strain on the IT band – We offer Foot Levelers custom orthotics to help with your posture, balance and leg relief.
- Providing suggestions for equipment -foam rollers, resistance bands etc.
Physical Therapy is an excellent resource to assist with knee pain and especially IT band syndrome. Your therapist should look at the overall body picture to find clues to the source or reason behind the knee pain.Temporary or fast pain relief options can work well in the short term but the goal with Physical Therapy is to work toward removing the immediate pain and also to prevent the pain from returning.
How to Prevent Knee Pain from IT Band issues
Looking long term to maintain your healthy knees and a healthy body, you should
- Utilize Physical Therapy – Physical Therapy is one of the best ways to increase strength and mobility in your knees. Our highly trained physical therapists can provide you with treatments and exercises to get you and keep you moving pain free
- Stretch before and after exercise to warm up your muscles and the surrounding tissues – allow time to complete warm and cool down as this aids in recovery
- Exercise – Movement and a regular exercise schedule provides so many benefits. Keeping your joints fluid and moving is key to prevent future problems as well.
- Give yourself time to recover between exercises. Your body needs time to rest
- Maintain an ideal weight – Your knees are joints that handle pressure and shock on a daily basis. Maintaining an ideal weight will help ease the stress on those joints. Being overweight adds to the stress on your joints and can lead to future problems. But also please know that you are not doomed to have knee pain if you are overweight; we help plenty of people recover fully from their knee pain despite them not being at their ideal weight so please don’t let that hold you back from getting help!
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet – This helps with maintaining weight, helps to improve recovery rate and lowers the chances of developing arthritis or osteoporosis and reduces inflammation.
- Wear supportive shoes – orthotics – Your shoes may be the cause of your knee pain – those with pain should usually avoid flip-flops, sandals or high heels. Custom orthotics from Foot Levelers is a great option. They custom make inserts as well as orthotic sandals to help support your feet, legs and knees.
Knee pain is not something you need to live with. Just because you are getting older, it does not mean you have to live with knee pain. We can help. Summer is waiting for you and we want to help you get the relief you need to take that vacation, play with the grandkids or join the neighborhood pickleball league.
Click the button below to request a free knee pain troubleshooting consultation. Balance Within PT will meet with you to discover the root cause of your pain and develop a customized treatment plan to get you back to your summer activities and living your best life. Summer brings so many family and friends events and we want to help you enjoy these events without the worry or concern that knee pain might slow you down or worse yet – prevent you from joining in.
Click here to request a FREE session today! Free Discovery Consult – Balance Within Integrative Physical Therapy In Delafield, Wisconsin (balancewithinpt.com)
Click here to request our free Ease your Knee Pain Guide – it offers helpful tips to provide relief for your pain.
For more expert advice, read our other blogs and check out our YouTube channel, Instagram and Facebook pages.: