On my last two section hikes, I experienced a cramping sensation in my left outer thigh on high mileage days. I attributed this to an electrolyte deficiency and brought along some extra salty items to compensate on my last trip. But the pain got worse and has persisted off trail. I’ve been able to control it with Ibuprofen, but I didn’t figure out what was wrong until last night. I have Iliotbial Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band is a fibrous ligament extending from the hip to the knee that can become inflamed when it rubs over the outer bony knuckle of your knee. The main symptom of Iliotibial band syndrome is pain that starts outside of the knee and radiates up the side of the thigh. The pain can be very hard to localize. I also feel a snapping sensation inside my knee when when I extend my leg. This is another a sign of the injury.
Iliotbial Band Syndrome is curable and preventable by strengthening your quadriceps muscles, stretching, and by preventing over-pronation that can occur from worn out boots or boot inserts. If you are already in pain, use anti-inflamatories like Ibuprofen or Mortin for relief. You can also use a compression strap for added knee support, like the one worn by my friend Paul on his left leg in the picture above.
Amazon sells a Pro-Tec Iliotibial Band Compression Strap for about $15. These compression straps are designed to support the iliotibial band while you are hiking and keep it from rubbing against your outer knee. I just bought one.
I could kick myself because I have had a number of similar overuse injuries like Iliotbial Band Syndrome over the past 10 years, including runner’s knee (also called Chondromalacia, Patellofemoral Stress Syndrome) and plantar fasciitis. I’ve kept these in check by riding a stationary bicycle 100 miles a week, wearing Superfeet hiking boot inserts designed to prevent pronation, and by doing a lot of lower body exercises like lunges, split squads, and step ups to keep my quads and hamstrings strong.
About 6 months ago, I finally got bored with this workout and stopped going to the gym everyday. Bad idea: I was back this morning.
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