Many a runner has been sidelined by knee pain caused by the iliotibial band (aka the ITB). But knowing how to deal with this long band of fascia, which runs down the outside of the thigh from the pelvis to just below the knee, can help keep an overuse injury at bay. Knowledge is power, and we want to help keep you on the road.
First off, fascia is a stiff connective tissue (like tendons and ligaments) that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints, providing both support and protection. It's like shrink-wrap; once fascia becomes tight, it tends to stay tight, causing pain and injuries. When the ITB shortens, usually due to poor biomechanics (like losing your running technique when tired), the fascial band can pull the knee cap out of alignment. The faulty alignment creates inflammation in the joint and pain when bending the knee. This injury, known as iliotibial band syndrome, occurs in more women than men, most likely due to the wider female pelvis.
To avoid overuse injuries, it's important to keep this thick band of fascia flexible, especially if you're training for a race and upping your weekly mileage. Keep reading to learn how.