Why your IT band deserves more TLC


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Odds are you’ve heard of the IT band, but you may not realize how important that tendon is to performance, not only for athletes, but also for anyone who enjoys moving freely in their daily life.

The IT band, or iliotibial band, is a fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of your leg from your hip to your knee. It helps the knee and hip by stabilizing them while running or walking. It also helps prevent dislocation of those oh-so-important joints.

Although it is not a muscle, it has a working relationship with the upper outer thigh muscles (i.e., tensor fascia latae) and the largest group of muscles in your butt (i.e., gluteus maximus) among others. Your IT band can throw you off your game if you overstress it with, say, overuse or bad form. The most popular injury you can get at the IT band is IT band syndrome.


IT band syndrome symptoms include:

  • Pain on the outer side of the knee, due to inflammation of the area where the band crosses back and forth on the knee. Occasionally, the pain may radiate along the course of the IT band all the way up to the outer side of the thigh to the hip. Ouch!
  • Tenderness where the area is inflamed.
  • Limited mobility or tightness of the knee.

Strengthening your hips, quads and glutes can prevent IT band syndrome. Results from a 2012 study by Dr. Reed Ferber at the University of Calgary's Running Injury Clinic show that strengthening the hip, glute and thigh muscles may be more effective — not only for rehab, but for preventing IT band syndrome. Click here for some workouts from Runner's World to get you started.

You can use a foam roller to prevent IT band syndrome by keeping the tendon loose and allowing more blood circulation. While painful when using them, foam rollers can actually lessen the pain caused by IT band syndrome. SparkPeople teaches you how, here.