An iliotibial band injury is painful and difficult to treat. The IB is a thick fibrous tissue that starts at your hip and crosses over your knee. The knee pain is progressive, starting out as minor and becoming debilitating. If you suffer from an IB injury, you'll have to stop exercising initially. The tissue is easily inflamed, so the constant flexing of the knee in most workouts will only make the injury worse. But you can do some stretching and strengthening exercises to try to get back to normal.
Before You Begin
Your doctor will advise that you first work on reducing the swelling of the iliotibial band for the first 72 hours. You can do that with icing, elevation and medication such as ibuprofen. You'll have to try not to flex your knee during this time. Once the swelling of your iliotibial band goes down, you will probably be advised by your physician to work with a physical therapist. The therapist will show you various stretching and strengthening exercises.
A physical therapist will teach you how to do numerous stretching exercises for the IB injury. A common stretch has you lie on the floor and lean on one knee. Pull your foot up to your buttocks, then cross your good leg over the leg with IB injury and push it down. Hold it for 30 seconds. Another stretch has you stand and cross your injured leg behind your other leg and lean toward the side that doesn't hurt. Put your arms over your head to create a bow.
Once you can stretch without pain, your physical therapist will advance you to strengthening your iliotibial band. To do this, lie on your side, prop yourself up with one elbow and lean against a wall. Move your leg up the wall and hold it for five seconds. Repeat this 20 times on each leg, adding five more repetitions each week, building up to three sets of 20 reps for each leg. Another good strengthening exercise has you balance on one foot while you are doing simple activity, such as brushing your teeth or tossing a tennis ball into the air and playing catch by yourself.
During this recovery period of stretching exercises and strengthening exercises, you may be allowed to swim for a cardio workout, but that is up to your doctor. Once you are able to stretch and strengthen your IB without pain, you will be allowed to return to regular activity. If these exercises are unsuccessful in treating the IB, you may have to undergo surgery to have the IB snipped where it crosses the knee.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Common Source of Knee Pain; Razib Khaund, M.D., et al
- The Stretching Institute: Treating Knee Pain and Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Running Times: Stretching and Strengthening Exercises for Iliotibial Band Syndrome; Brian Fullem, D.P.M.; May 2004