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IT Band Syndrome

What is IT Band Syndrome?

Woman with Knee PainIliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), an injury most often seen in runners and cyclists, is a common cause of knee pain and hip pain. While pain is typically experienced along the outside of the knee, ITBS can also manifest in acute or nagging pain on the outside of the hip. The result of repetition and overuse, IT band syndrome can also occur among hikers, backpackers, people who participate in aerobic activities, and those who take long frequent walks.

IT Band Syndrome Explained

The Iliotibial band is a thick band of fibrous tissue that begins at the hip and runs down the outside of the leg to just below the knee joint. In coordination with the thigh muscles, the IT band helps stabilize and move the knee and hip joints and prevents dislocation. Every time you bend your knee or flex your hip, this band rubs against the bone. If the IT band becomes tight or inflamed, pain occurs to the point of sidelining athletes for several weeks. For this reason, ITBS is also known as iliotibial band friction syndrome. Intense pain may also be felt when rising from a seated position or when walking down stairs.

What Causes ITBS?

Common precursors to developing IT band syndrome include:

  • Repetitive knee/hip motion
  • Joint overuse
  • Unbalanced exercise, i.e. running one way repeatedly around a track
  • Running downhill/on a banked surface
  • Pronated foot
  • Wearing worn-out shoes
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Tight buttocks or thigh muscles
  • Bowed legs
  • Lateral pelvic tilt (common in women)

IT Band Syndrome Treatment

ITBS is commonly treated with a combination of:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications and ice to reduce swelling and pain
  • Short-term rest/reduced activity to allow joint inflammation to subside
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Cortisone (steroid) injections
  • Foam roller exercises
  • Shoe inserts/orthotics
  • Cross-training techniques

In rare cases where conventional treatments do not work, surgery may be required to release and mobilize the IT band.

How to Prevent Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Follow these guidelines to help prevent IT Band Syndrome:

  • Warm-up/stretch before exercising
  • Wear proper shoes
  • Run on soft (non-concrete) flat surfaces
  • Regularly change directions on a running track
  • Consult with a sports doctor or podiatrist if you are experiencing knee pain or hip pain as a result of running, cycling, or other aerobic activities