Joint pain isn't just for athletes, and you shouldn't ignore it

By MISSY CORRIGAN
Posted 12/12/17

Many of us experience joint pain at some point in our life. For runners, the repetitive impact on the ankles, knees, hips and spine can cause pain down the side of the leg which is known as the iliotibial band or IT band. IT Band Syndrome is one of …

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Joint pain isn't just for athletes, and you shouldn't ignore it

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Many of us experience joint pain at some point in our life. For runners, the repetitive impact on the ankles, knees, hips and spine can cause pain down the side of the leg which is known as the iliotibial band or IT band. IT Band Syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries for runners, as it functions as a stabilizer while running. But many individuals who are not runners experience IT Band Syndrome without the high impact of a repetitive motion.

The IT band is a group of connective tissues that runs along the outside of the thigh. It starts at the top of the hip and attaches at the tibia, just below the knee. Many runners who experience this syndrome describe the pain on the outside of the knee or lower thigh. Although IT Band Syndrome is common, this type of injury can often be misdiagnosed as a knee injury, especially in non-runners.

The IT band plays an important role in daily activity. It supports the hip as it extends, abducts and laterally rotates. It also helps with lateral knee stabilization during knee flexion and extension. Inflammation of the IT band is typically seen as an overuse injury, but inflammation can occur in sedentary individuals as well. This is most likely because of muscular imbalances or legs that are different lengths.

For individuals who have a sedentary job, muscular imbalances are common. Tight back, hips and glutes are the most typical as well as a weak core. When you are sitting, pay attention to how you are sitting. Is your weight distributed evenly or more to one side, are your legs collapsing in or crossed, are you slouching in your back or dropping your head down? Physicians recommend that you immediately begin to fix these problems.

Several factors can lead to inflammation and pain including leg length discrepancy, tight glutes or quadriceps muscles and abnormal biomechanics during exercise. To manage and prevent ITBS, it is imperative that you stretch and strengthen the lower back, knees, hip and all the leg muscles. Using a foam roller and massaging the area regularly helps soften the tissues by bringing oxygen and blood to the area, which can ultimately help to reduce inflammation and pain.

Pain is a good thing because it tells us when something is wrong. But if you ignore this pain, it will most likely get worse. Staying active, stretching and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the amount of stress placed on your joints and supportive tissues. If you are experiencing lower body joint pain, talk with your physician. It could be that the joint is not the source of your pain.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at mcorrigan@ymcasumter.org or (803) 773-1404.