5 Ways to Avoid Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Chances are, you’ve heard of Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome.  You might have even suffered from it yourself.  The medical literature tells us that Iliotibial band syndrome is the one of the most common ailments of the hip suffered by runners.  It also happens to be extremely preventable if one knows just a few quick training tips at the hip.

The iliotibial band is an extremely long tendinous structure which runs from the outside part of the hip to the side of the knee.  It’s role is to support the lateral side of the hip when a person is weight bearing on the leg.  Things tend to go wrong at the hip and ITB when the outside of the hip is either too weak or too tight to handle the tasks being placed on it.

Here are a few ways to make sure that your hip is strong and flexible enough to avoid injury:

1)      Strengthen your gluts!  The gluteus maximus is one of the most important muscles in the hip and the largest muscle in your body.  Having a strong glut max can take pressure off the IT band and help you to avoid injury.  One of the best exercises for glut max is a simple bridge on the ground.

2)      Use the foam roller – An easy way to keep your IT band flexible is with weekly use of the foam roller.  Put the roller on the ground, and lower yourself onto the side of your hip.  Roll up and down the side of your hip with the roller.  No one says that it is comfortable, but the literature has found that it works.  Ask a trainer if you have questions with the set up.

3)      Strengthen the side of your hip – Not only do you have to strengthen the back of your hip, but in order to avoid ITB syndrome, you must work the lateral aspect of your hip.  Great ways to do that are lateral raises of your leg.  Get on the ground and lie on your side.  Slowly kick your hip up to the ceiling.  Rest one side of a weighted bar on your ankle for resistance.  Work to fatigue. Clamshell exercises with a weight tucked behind your knee are also a good choice.

4)      Work in single limb – Since the hip needs to be able to control your entire body weight when you are on just one leg, you better be exercising that way.  Make sure to include exercises that have you balancing on one leg to challenge the hip musculature.  Single leg dead lifts and lunges are good choices.  Put a little free weight in your hands for added resistance.

5)       Add a little speed and impact – If you are a runner, your hip has to be able to control a quick loading with every step.  Controlling this quick loading of the hip is the most challenging aspect of running and is the most common problem for most people with ITB syndrome.  Make sure to add some exercises which incorporate a quick/dynamic loading of the hip.  Squat jumps and box jumps are great ways to do this.

If you incorporate these 5 things, you will likely be able to avoid ITB syndrome in the future.  Ask a trainer for specifics if you need help.  And if you are unable to strengthen out of your problem on your own, a sports physical therapist would be the next stop to getting you back on the road without pain!

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Diana grew up in a small suburb north of Boston. She received her clinical doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Boston University in 2006. Diana started practicing as a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MGH, she developed a specialty in the evaluation and treatment of complex lumbopelvic dysfunction. Diana is currently practicing at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where she is the Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor of the Spine program. She is presently a Boston resident and her interests outside physical therapy include cooking, walking on the Esplanade, and international travel.

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