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Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

Hi. Today, we shall cover the infamous Iliotibial Band Syndrome or the ITBS that sabotages the fitness routines of many fitness enthusiasts.

The iliotibial band is a thick tissue that extends from out of the pelvis, running over the hip down through the lateral outer thigh and inserts just below our knee. One of the main functions of this band is to help stabilize our knee during movements like running, cycling, walking etc. Sometimes, due to sudden overload, overuse (repeated flexion and extension of the knee) or rubbing of the band over the lateral femur, the band is inflamed and causes pain in the lateral outer side of the knee or in the entire length of the band. The pain may start after a couple of minutes into the workout and will aggravate on continuing and on foot strike.

If you experience the ITBS, stop all running, jogging, cycling, martial arts (as they require holding positions with knee bent for longer times), squats, tennis etc. immediately. Exercising through this injury is not only very painful but dangerous and could lead to treatment through surgery. Consult your doctor as soon as you have the opportunity. They will advice on physiotherapy or surgery or medication or combinations thereof.

But until you get the doctor’s appointment, it would be a good idea to give your ITBS the RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation on a pillow). You may want to back it up with a topical muscle relaxant or over-the-counter pain-killer.

In the time period, you are advised to not do activities that involve knee bending or foot strike, you may consider swimming to maintain your fitness goal. It has a near zero knee impact and the mild resistance from water acts as therapy.

As a proactive step, you can have a 5-minute warm-up and a similar cool-down. You should also try and include stretches of hamstring, quadriceps and gastrocnemius (calves) in both these phases of your workouts. It is always recommended to ease into your regime – sudden jumps of distance and speeds are a known cause of the ITBS. You must check your feet for pronation and wear corrective shoes or shoes with insoles if there is over-pronation. Rest and recovery between 2 workout sessions is also advised.

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