Continuing with the second part of our running series, we are
going to look at another common site for pain in runners: the IT band.
Pain related to the IT band is most commonly felt at the outside portion of the knee, but can also be felt on the outside of the hip. Although IT Band Syndrome is a very popular topic right now, it is really more of a symptom than a diagnosis. IT band is often treated with stretches for the IT band, as well as other muscles in the hip. However, these stretches alone do not typically fix the root of the problem. The “tightness” in the IT band is usually caused by excessive motion in the hips during running. This excessive motion can be caused by weakness in the hip muscles, poor running mechanics, or excessive pronation (flat feet).
A good way to assess if you may be at an increased risk for IT band syndrome is to perform the Single Leg Stance Test (pictured below). For this test, simply stand on one foot with your eyes open and arms by your side. You should be able to stand on one leg for about 30 seconds without the opposite hip dropping, the arms leaving your side, or the lifted foot touching the ground. This test is a quick way to evaluate weakness in the hip muscles, which could lead to some of the symptoms noted above.
Treating IT band syndrome is done most effectively by strengthening the hip and knee muscles to better stabilize the pelvis and addressing the body mechanics which can increase your symptoms. The pelvic drop exercise is an example of a great exercise for those who have an abnormal single leg stance test or who simply want to prevent IT band syndrome. The exercise involves standing on a step with your symptomatic leg (hold onto a wall if necessary). With both knees locked, the opposite non-symptomatic pelvis will be lowered towards the floor, shifting your body weight to the inside part of the foot and symptomatic leg, creating a swivel action at the hip. Then, by contracting the glute muscles on the involved side, the pelvis was brought back to a level position.
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