Knee and IT-band injuries have the potential to stop you from doing many of the things you enjoy. IT-band injuries commonly sideline runners at all levels for an entire season or more. A common quote by Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is just as true for knee injuries as other injuries that you’ve dealt with.
The knees are very important joints in our body. They are involved in many daily tasks, including two of the most common movements we make, getting up from a chair and walking. The knee joint is a fairly simple joint but can have pain from a variety of causes. Having a good understanding of your knee can help you have an idea of where the pain might be coming from.
First thing to understand is that your knees are part of a complex kinetic chain. The way that your hips and ankles move cause the forces through your knees to change. Even pain in your back can cause you to move differently which may lead to damage to your knees if not addressed.
The knee is composed of 4 bones: femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), fibula (smaller shin bone), and patella (kneecap).
The muscles affecting the front of the knee are almost exclusively the quad muscles (thigh muscles). The muscles of the back of the knee: 4 hamstrings, popliteal, and gastrocnemius (calf). The inside of the knee is supported by the hip adductor muscles (inside of the thigh containing several large muscles). The outside of the knee is stabilized through the IT-band.
All knee pain can limit you from doing what you love, whether that be running, hiking, playing soccer, or just walking upstairs to go to bed. Some of these injuries could be a meniscus tear, a MCL or LCL ligament sprain, or a strain of any of the many muscles/tendons around the joint. It could even be bursitis, pes anserine tendonitis, patellofemoral syndrome, or an IT-band injury.
The IT-band starts near the top of your hip, right on the outside of the thigh. It spans the lateral side of your knee at the joint line and then angles in to attach to the front of the lower part of the knee. The TFL (tensor fascia latte), glue medius, glute maximus, and glute minimus attach to the top of the IT-band. Tension in the hip muscles pulls on the IT-band which can lead to pain on the side of the knee or into the front of the knee below the knee cap. Another condition with pain below the kneecap is patellar tendonitis. But that is a topic for another blog.
Some causes for IT-band pain or injury are hip drop and genu valgum. These are both signs of weakness in the muscles that attach to the IT-band. This leads to mechanical changes which then cause tension to build up in these muscles. Another cause can be injury from repetitive movements. This is a common injury found in runners. Improving your running mechanics, good shoes, and frequent stretching can reduce your risk for this and many kinds of knee injuries.
During your assessment we will evaluate your knee and the way you move to verify your diagnosis and to find the cause. Through specific treatment designed for you, we will speed up your recovery and most importantly, we will help you fix the cause of your injury.
Brad Klemetson, PT, DPT