If you’re an avid runner or cyclist, chances are you’ve heard of the dreaded Windshield Wiper Syndrome (or TFL). This syndrome can come on suddenly and cause sharp pain in the outer part of your leg, then persist for weeks or even months. Not only is it painful, but it can also significantly hamper progress when preparing for your next race.
Fortunately, there are certain measures to help manage this problem and allow runners and cyclists to regain their strength, health and comfort when training! In this article, we will explain this syndrome and discuss its causes and symptoms for better management before it’s too late Prepare yourself; let’s dive into the details of what Windshield Wiper Syndrome is!
Windshield wiper syndrome: what is it?
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB) or windshield wiper syndrome is a common overuse injury that can affect runners and other athletes who exercise regularly. It occurs when the iliotibial band, a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh from hip to knee, becomes inflamed and irritated due to repetitive motion.
Who is most affected by this syndrome?
This condition usually affects runners and cyclists, but it can also occur in other people who participate in sports or activities that involve repeated flexion and extension of the hip, such as hiking, basketball, football and cross-country skiing.
How to recognize it?
Windshield wiper symptoms include:
- Knee or hip pain during activities such as running or cycling.
- Swelling of the affected area.
- Tenderness along the ilio-tibial band.
- A popping sensation or sound when bending or straightening the knee.
In order to recognize iliotibial band syndrome (ITB), it’s important to be aware of any pain you may feel while exercising. If you notice discomfort in your hips or knees while running or doing other physical activities, it’s important to stop immediately and rest until you feel better.
Additionally, if you notice swelling around the hip joint or the outer part of the thigh, this may also indicate a TFL problem. Finally, if you hear a popping sound coming from your knee when you bend it, that’s another sign that you might have iliotibial band syndrome.
Windshield Wiper Syndrome: What are the potential causes?
TFL is usually caused by:
- Inadequate stretching before beginning physical activity.
- Overtraining without adequate rest periods between sessions.
- Running on steep inclines for long periods of time.
- Improper running form or technique.
- Wearing worn-out shoes that do not provide enough cushioning and support for the feet and ankles.
- Weak core muscles that cannot properly support the spine and pelvis while running.
How can windshield wiper syndrome be treated?
Fortunately, TFL can usually be treated with simple measures such as:
It’s important to rest from activities that make your condition worse, but it’s also important to maintain some form of light activity, such as walking, to help keep your muscles relaxed.
Applying ice for 10 to 15 minutes after any activity can help reduce inflammation. Applying heat for 10 to 15 minutes before any activity can also help keep your muscles warm and supple.
Stretching exercises are another form of treatment that can be used to prevent the onset of TFL or to help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with it. Stretching the calves, quadriceps, and hip abductors/adductors can help relieve iliotibial band tension.
Compression garments/spacers may also be used to support iliotibial band weakness during exercise or other activities.
Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed by your doctor if needed, but they should not replace lifestyle modifications such as rest and the exercise and stretching programs described above.
Physiotherapy and massage therapy:
Finally, physiotherapy or massage therapy can also be recommended so that they can assess the movements that cause you pain and offer specific treatments.