What Cyclists Can Do To Prevent and Treat IT Band Syndrome


Most people assume that iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome is something that only runners have to deal with. In reality, though, this condition can affect all types of athletes (as well as inactive people). Cyclists are among those who also deal with IT band syndrome on a regular basis.

If you’re currently struggling with IT band syndrome — or want to know how you can avoid it — keep reading. Listed below are some important steps that you can take as a cyclist to prevent and treat IT band syndrome.

Preventing IT Band Syndrome

It’s almost always easier to prevent an injury than it is to try and treat it later, so your primary focus as a cyclist should be on making sure you’re not doing anything that increases your risk of developing IT band syndrome or other injuries.

Often, cyclists develop IT band syndrome because something is off with the structure of their bike or their form while riding. Be sure to check the following aspects of your equipment and general routine to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for an injury later on.

  1. Adjust Your Pedals

All pedals have different spindle lengths, which can affect (positively or negatively) the width of your stance (distance between feet) when you’re cycling. According to the health science journal, If your stance is unnatural, you could end up putting excess strain on your IT band when pedaling.

  1. Wear Insoles

While your shoes don’t matter a great deal when it comes to preventing cycling-induced IT band syndrome, the insoles do. If you lack proper arch support, your ankles may feel unstable as you pedal. Unstable ankles or unsupported feet can cause problems further up the leg since you have to engage other muscles differently to compensate.

  1. Check Your Saddle

A saddle that doesn’t provide proper support sets you up for IT band syndrome — as well as a variety of other hip and pelvis issues — later on. If you don’t have good support, you’ll likely end up leaning to one side or rotating your pelvis to try and get comfortable.

It’s also important to make sure your saddle is at the proper height. When it’s too high, your IT band can become irritated and inflamed.

  1. Maintain Good Hip Health

Healthy, strong hips are also crucial for cyclists. Maintaining strong glutes and hips is essential if you want to continue cycling without injury. Be sure to incorporate exercises like squats and lunges into your routine to improve mobility and strength.

  1. Stretch and Foam Roll Regularly

Finally, a lack of flexibility can also contribute to IT band syndrome, as well as other injuries. Make sure you’re dedicating time after your training sessions to stretch and loosen up tight muscles. Even taking just ten minutes can make a big difference.

Treating IT Band Syndrome

Of course, sometimes, injuries are unavoidable. If you’re currently dealing with IT band syndrome, all hope is not lost. Most people can recover fairly quickly if they apply these tips.

Stretching and Foam Rolling

In addition to preventing IT band syndrome, stretching and foam rolling can also help relieve tightness and inflammation that comes with this condition. Spend some time stretching and rolling both the IT band itself and the muscles that surround it, including the hip flexors, quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings.

Anti-Inflammatory Treatments

When you first start dealing with pain and stiffness in your IT band, these anti-inflammatory treatments can help lessen your discomfort:

  • NSAIDs
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Rest
  • Bracing or compression wraps

Alternative Therapies

You can also look into alternative, more advanced therapies like ultrasound techniques, which send sound waves to the tissue in the leg to minimize inflammation and irritation, and corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

It’s rare that these therapies are necessary, as the treatments listed above are usually quite effective on their own. However, in some cases, cyclists can benefit from these advanced treatment options.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a cyclist, there is always a chance that you could develop IT band syndrome. But, if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll decrease your chances of experiencing an injury and will know how to respond if one does occur.


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