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Runner's Knee

The runner’s nemesis: IT band

Runners love to hate their IT bands. Trouble there can keep you off the road, the runner’s worst nightmare.

Short for iliotibial, the IT is a long band of connective tissue on the outside of each leg, running from hip to knee. When it gets inflamed, it usually causes pain on the outside of the knee. But it can also cause pain at the hip or lower back.

Runners are prone, because running virtually defines repetitive stress. The movement is exclusively unidirectional, with almost no variety. IT band problems are generally caused when the upper leg gets stuck in tension mode – the muscles don’t relax as they should, putting pressure on the IT. As mileage mounts, scar tissue forms. It acts like glue, knotting up tissues that should move independently.

IT Band

Pretty soon, that outer knee is on fire. Now what?

The IT band doesn’t show up on X-rays and can sometimes be deceptively difficult to diagnosis accurately with MRI. It doesn’t respond well to surgery. Cortisone injections can provide some relief, but that is only a temporary solution to the symptom and doesn’t get to the root of the problem. 

That’s the bad news. The good news: advanced chiropractic techniques can make a real difference. 

We are trained to improve scar tissue and connective tissue, especially the fascia – the tough membrane that encloses and isolates muscles. Although the knee is where the pain shows up, the IT involves the entire upper leg. We work on the whole chain, breaking up scar tissue to loosen things up. We can also help you correct mechanics in your stride that may be aggravating the IT.

ART Runner

The foam roller is often the first line of defense. That’s a good idea for some, but it can sometimes make things worse by causing more inflammation. Your chiropractor will advise you, based on a physical exam. And the chiropractor can do more, faster than you can on your own. After all, a chiropractor is a foam roller with a brain.

Pay close attention to your shoes. No matter the brand, every running shoe has a finite lifespan – the foams and other materials that cushion the blow eventually lose their integrity, even before you notice it.


Stretching, ice and rest are important, too. As with most athletes, moving mountains is easier keeping a runner from running. But, when you’re sore, listen to your body. It really does make things better in the long run.