Is It Normal for the IT Band to “Pop”?

It’s quite common for our joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments to make popping and cracking noises throughout day-to-day activities and our training routines. These sounds are thought to be caused by a rapid reduction in pressure between two structures or within a structure itself.

Most of the time cracks and pops are associated without pain, or can be associated with a small, but brief pain sensation that dissipates quickly after the audible sound. Additionally, once any area has “released,” we are typically unable to reproduce a crack or pop in the same spot for a period of time after, usually a few hours. Typically, cracking and popping occur in areas that have been immobile, or less mobile, for some period of time. Think about times like waking up in the morning and taking your first few steps, or getting up from a chair in the movie theater.

Popping and cracking should not be considered the same thing as snapping and clicking, which is usually indicative of increased friction between connective tissues. We should not typically hear or feel clicking and snapping as this may mean that there is inflammation, motion loss, or pathology in one or both of the structures causing the sound.

Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) syndrome is usually caused by something related to the hip or knee musculature or structure. When that’s the case, those areas need to be addressed rather than the “ITB” itself. In some cases, ITB Syndrome can turn into something more acute and needs to be addressed by a medical professional in person.

Here’s are my most important takeaways for IT Bands that “pop”.

  • In the absence of pain take note of the sound and keep moving.
  • If you’re experiencing associated pain or discomfort that is not going away and continues to get worse as you warm-up, then it’s best to find an alternative movement pattern that does not cause pain, or shut it down for the day and see how you feel next time.
  • Any time there is swelling, bruising, warmth, or pain that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse after the exercise has stopped, then it’s time to a) ice and b) see the appropriate health care professional for an evaluation. My recommendation would be to see an orthopedic physical therapist or an orthopedic MD.

Editor’s note: Dear Rori is a series of articles that focus on strength training related injury questions that have been submitted to Doctor of Physical Therapy Rori Atler at Progressive Rehab Strength. The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems.

Feature image from @rorimegan Instagram page.  

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Dr. Rori Alter is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Strength and Nutrition Coach, and Competitive Powerlifter. Dr. Rori is the founder of Progressive Rehab & Strength, LLC., providing rehabilitation, coaching, programming and nutrition services for competitive and recreation strength athletes. Her training, knowledge, and experience enable her to play a unique role in the lives of her clients. She not only understands how to customize and adjust programming to give her clients the best results, but also diagnoses and treats injuries, and helps clients adjust movement patterns and programming to train injury-free. Rori is a Full-Body Certified Active Release Techniques Practitioner, a Starting Strength Certified Coach, and a sought-after Physical Therapist and Strength Coach within the powerlifting community. She is a nationally ranked Powerlifter having placed 1st in the Arnold Classic Sling-Shot Pro American 2017 (72kg Women Open), 4th in the USA Powerlifting Raw National Championship 2016 &, 2017 (72kg Women Open), and will be representing the USA for Bench Press at the International Powerlifting Federation's World Bench Press Championship in 2018.