Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Knee pains = hip problems? You betcha

While running on a treadmill at the Y the other, I overheard a conversation one gym member was having with another about how knee pains had developed since he recently started running. Even more troublesome: icing his knees seemed to do little to alleviate the pain.

The other person told him that the pains likely weren't from his knees at all, but rather from his hip. More specifically, his IT band (also known as the iliotibial band).

This seemed to confuse the novice runner, and frankly I don't blame him. After all, the pain was in his knees, not his hip.
However, as the photo at right indicates, the IT band indeed connects with the lateral part of your knee, and also goes all the way up to your outer pelvis. Pains associated with IT band syndrome can either be in your hip or your knee, making it a difficult injury to diagnose.
The band, which serves as a connective tissue for your fascia lata (outer thigh muscle), gets utilized during the abduction process of your thigh muscle, an action that occurs with every stride you take while running. IT band syndrome typically occur when athletes suddenly increase their workload without keeping their body (more specifically, their hip) properly limbered up.
Of course, this type of information is hardly common knowledge to the average runner. Matter of fact, the conversation brought back memories of my own struggles early on with marathon training.

For a moment, travel back with me to early 2009. I had just registered for my first marathon in January, which was set to take place in early May.

To put it bluntly, I didn't know what the hell I was doing training-wise. I wasn't necessarily starting from scratch -- jogging had been a hobby of mine long before that -- but my body simply wasn't used to the rigors of 10-12-mile runs. Which, in my great wisdom (not!) was the distance I started running pretty much right away.
As you can probably guess, my legs weren't happy with me. I developed terrible knee pains within the first few weeks and all the icing in the world couldn't dull the pain. I started wondering if my body would ever be able to hold up for 26.2 miles (actually, I still wonder that from time to time, even after two marathons).

So I did what any sensible person would do when they were in pain: I went to the doctor. Aside from the x-rays, the exam took all of 10 minutes for the doctor to tell me that there was nothing structurally wrong with my knees and that it was likely my IT band flaring up.

I had no idea what he was talking about (my first thought was that IT band was some sort of class offered at the college), so he referred me to a physical therapist who basically showed me this and this for stretches to perform on a daily basis. Literally, the physical therapy session took less than 20 minutes. Within a couple weeks, the knee pains were gone and haven't been a big issue since.

While I'm grateful for the information I learned from that experience, I would have preferred learning about it BEFORE accumulating medical/physical therapy bills. I won't go into details, but I will say that it was a hefty sum for a person of my modest earnings.

Which brings me to the point of this post: To help save the novice runners in my readership the time (and money) of going to the doctor. Most injuries suffered by athletes -- IT band syndrome included -- stem from not taking the time to limber up.

So do yourself a favor and don't skimp on stretching. You legs (and your wallet) will thank you for it.

For more on IT band syndrome, here is a link to a sports injury website on the topic. If that wasn't enough for you, here is another website dedicated specifically to the IT band.


  1. If one experiences knee and hip pains, it is best to see a doctor immediately and undergo a medical check-up. Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, with careful attention to your knees, hips, legs, and other joints. In some cases, You may need referrals to a physical therapist (to learn stretching and strengthening exercises) and podiatrist (to be fitted for orthotics). In extreme cases, surgery is needed. For example, if arthritis is severe, a joint replacement may be recommended. For information about the risks of joint replacement and hip replacement surgeries, you may directly ask your doctor about it. Usually, the risks start with a defective medical device such as the ASR XL Acetabular System and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System of DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. These devices were recalled in 2010. The victimized patients are now filing DePuy Lawsuit against its mother company, Johnson&Johnson.

  2. The causes for hip pain when walking may be different for you and me. You may have arthritis in the hip which is just normal wear and tear of the joint tendon that eventually exposes the bone. You may have hip bursitis, or inflammation of the hip bursa. You may suffer from tendonitis, inflammation of the tendon in the hip joint.
    here is the link