Thursday, August 13, 2015

Knee Pain & IT Band Syndrome

photo courtesy of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)

In the summer, a lot of focus is placed on butts and hips and thighs, but not just in the swimsuit edition sort of way.  Many athletes are out in full force this summer.  Several of my clients are runners, triathletes, tennis players, golfers, hikers, climbers, yogis, and even badminton players.  While keeping active is, of course, a very healthy and excellent thing to do, it is not without its risks for injury. 

Lately a few of my clients in particular have been experiencing aches and pains in the lower half of the body, such as the knees, hips, and upper legs.  While I cannot make any blanket statements about what you should or should not do if you are experiencing any such symptoms, I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss knee pain and IT Band Syndrome--two common afflictions resulting from various athletic activities.

image from


Patellar (i.e., knee) pain is a very complex topic about which whole books have been written.  There are many possible causes of knee pain and dysfunction.  However, once direct injury, trauma, and erosion of the knee (e.g., meniscus, bone or ligament damage; arthritis; bursitis; etc...) are ruled out, likely one will find their patellar pain a result of trigger points and imbalances in nearby muscles. 
Knee pain can often occur due to imbalances in tension between muscle groups.  Commonly we will find in our body that some muscles are tight, overused, and generally stronger than their counterparts. 

A good example of this occurs in our biceps and triceps brachii.  We show off our “guns” by flexing at the elbow, and have to work much harder to decrease the flab in the muscles that straighten our arms--our weaker triceps.  

Similarly, there can be imbalances in our biceps femoris (i.e., hamstrings) and our quadriceps as they attempt to counterbalance each other, or even within one or more muscle heads of a particular muscle group.  For instance, within the quadriceps--a four-headed muscle in the front of the thigh--the vastus lateralis (see left side of image below) may be overly tight while the vastus medialis may be weak and less stable).  If these muscles, or parts of muscles, cannot pull with equal force on the patella, then the knee can become unstable and suffer a number of problems, including tracking issues and pain.
image from

Massage therapy and self-care techniques may prove extremely helpful in reducing pain and recovery time.  Stretching and strengthening the muscles around the knee, as well as alleviating the legs and glutes of any trigger points or sustained contractions, can do wonders for eliminating these problems.    Another thing to be sure to look at is your shoes.  Wearing a worn-out shoe or the wrong type of shoe for your activity could improperly align the body as well. 


Ilitiotibial (IT) Band Syndrome is another leading cause of knee pain, especially the anterior (front) knee. 

The IT Band begins as a muscle called the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) that originates at the pelvis and helps balance our pelvis as we move.  This muscle then turns into a thick sturdy band of connective tissue that attaches just below the lateral side of the knee to help stabilize the knee during intense activity such as running. 

A great stretch as seen in The Anatomy of Stretching by Brad Walker
If the IT Band and/or related areas become inflamed, swollen, or otherwise painful, especially when the foot hits the ground, you may have IT Band Syndrome. In addition to overuse or misuse during particular activities (such as incline or stair running, hiking, rowing...) and anatomic abnormalities (including poor arches, over-pronation or supination of the feet, uneven leg lengths, bowleggedness...), muscle imbalance once again is a likely cause of syndromic pain.  We will want to look at imbalances between the abductors and adductors, if overly contracted muscles (including the TFL and gluteus maximus) are pulling on the pelvis or knee, and what trigger points may be disrupting your perfect run.

Take 5 Bodywork can help determine what muscles are involved in your pain/discomfort and help make things right again so you can run faster, play harder, bike or climb that extra mile.

Schedule your Orthopedic Sports Massage 

or Suzanna’s Signature Massage now!


Take 5 Bodywork logo and contact info 



1 comment: