Exercising and staying active are important parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. While many people can achieve their exercise goals without injury, others may experience sports injuries that hamper their fitness goals. If you’re experiencing knee pain, it could be IT (iliotibial) band syndrome, a fairly common sports injury that can lead to lateral knee pain. IT band syndrome can cause a lot of pain, but fortunately, it can be treated.

If you have IT band syndrome or any other injury causing knee pain, we can help at Cawley Physical Therapy. Learn more about IT band syndrome and how a physical therapist in NEPA can help. 

Anatomy of the Knee

The knee is a complex joint requiring the support of many muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other tissues to function correctly. Some of the critical components that support the knee include a series of quadriceps muscles in the front of the thigh, the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh, the patella (kneecap), and the lateral femoral condyle (lowermost, outside portion of the thigh bone). The iliotibial band is a connective tissue that provides support to the knee area as well. The IT band extends from the outside of the hip area all the way down to the knee, crossing both the hip and knee joints. Near the hip area, the IT band is associated with the gluteus medius and maximus muscles (the buttock muscles), along with the tensor fascia latae, a tiny muscle that also provides support to the iliotibial band.

When all these muscles and other tissues are strong and functioning well, they help provide the proper support for the knee and the surrounding area. When any one of these areas is weak or injured, it can lay the groundwork for a case of IT band syndrome.

IT Band Syndrome Symptoms 

If a person experiences pain anywhere on the outside of the thigh, whether they are running, walking, or even standing, it’s possible they may be experiencing an issue with their IT band. This area could occur anywhere from the knee musculature, extending up the outside portion of the thigh region’s quadriceps muscle and into the hip area. If left untreated, other issues can develop, such as kneecap tendonitis, as well as quadriceps tendonitis. 

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

It’s not uncommon for individuals to overestimate their ability to begin a running or cycling exercise program. Excessively increasing one’s daily or weekly mileage can irritate the IT band(s). Having weak hip abductor muscles (the hip muscles responsible for moving the leg away from the body) can also lead to IT Band Syndrome. If a person’s ankle rolls outward as their heel strikes the ground during running, this can also put excessive stress on the IT band. Internal rotation of the tibia (shinbone) throughout the stance phase of a person’s gait can also increase the likelihood of developing IT Band Syndrome and friction between the lateral femoral condyle and the IT band.  

What Treatment is Available?

A physical therapist will evaluate why a person is experiencing IT Band Syndrome, then create a customized treatment plan for their individual requirements. A person’s treatment plan may include treatments such as soft tissue mobilization in NEPA, taping, exercise modification to reduce pain levels, the correction of imbalances such as ankle supination or poor posture, increasing one’s range of motion, and improving strength in key areas. 

Depending upon where a patient’s weak areas reside, their treatment plan may include exercises designed to stretch and strengthen the buttock muscles, the quadriceps (thigh) muscles, such as the rectus femoris and the vastus medialis obliques, the hamstrings, and the gastroc-soleus complex (calf muscle area).  

Just as important, a trained physical therapist can also make suggestions regarding the proper footwear and the correct form to practice while exercising to maximize the patient’s chances of preventing re-injury in the future. 

Get Physical Therapy to Help IT Band Syndrome Today

An injury like IT band syndrome can be a huge pain and keep you from doing the activities you enjoy. Injuries like this happen to many people, and effective treatments are available for them. If you have been diagnosed with IT band syndrome, we can help you recover safely from your injury. At Cawley Physical Therapy, we’ll provide the support and guidance you need so you can heal and get back to your life. 

Contact Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab to make an appointment today.