Your IT Band May be the Reason for Your Knee Pain
Do you have a sharp pain on the outside of your knee? It could simply be your Iliotibial Band (also known as the IT Band). The IT Band originates near your hip bone and functions as a stabilizer for both the hip and the knee and aids in protecting the ACL from excessive force. However, whenever we bend or extend our knee, the IT Band rolls back and forth over a bony structure called the lateral femoral condyle. It is believed that excessive friction between these two areas is the cause of IT band syndrome. This could be due to weak hip abductors, improper knee alignment, or even exercising too much.
How do you treat this type of knee pain?
Some conservative treatments for IT band syndrome include rest, stretching, myofascial release, and strengthening. For those who exercise too much, sometimes rest may simply be the solution. By cutting back on workouts and taking some days off you may feel better before you know it.
Stretching is also beneficial, however, the IT band is one of the more difficult structures to get a complete stretch. One common stretch involves standing upright and crossing your right leg behind your left. Lean slightly forwards and to your left side until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg. Lean on a chair/wall if needed.
One thing patients can do on their own is to use a foam roller. In a side plank position, place the foam roller under the thigh and slowly roll the foam roller up toward the hip and down toward the knee. The only downside to this is that it may provide some discomfort and is not an easy position for some individuals to achieve.
Hip abductor strengthening exercises are of vital importance and should be incorporated regardless of injury. Try laying on the unaffected side keeping both legs straight. Proceed by lifting the affected leg up while maintaining a straight knee and controlling its descent near the other leg. You may add resistance to this by tying resistance bands around the ankles. If you are looking to incorporate something more functional and challenging, the squat walks are very effective. Tie a theraband around your ankles, get into a squat position while maintaining tension in the bands and begin to sidestep. This exercise is great at challenging your abductors, quadriceps and helping maintain core and posture.
What to do next about your knee pain
IT band syndrome can range from a mild complication for individuals to a chronic pain issue interfering with running and walking. The best way to treat a potential problem like this is to work on preventive strategies such as those outlined above. Pay attention to your body and never ignore a problem for too long. Be sure to consult a physical therapist to help reduce eliminate your pain.