Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IT Band Syndrome)

Did you know there are more than 200,000 cases of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) in the United States every year?

The condition, often known as IT Band Syndrome, occurs when connective tissues in the femur (thigh bone) rub against each other, causing chronic, painful friction.

What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Iliotibial Band SyndromeThe iliotibial band, or IT band, is a ligament running along the outside of the thigh, stretching from the pelvic bone to the shin bone. It’s purpose is to provide stability to the lateral section of the knee while helping to facilitate joint flexibility and extension.

Iliotibial band syndrome is essentially an overuse injury to this tissue often affecting avid runners and cyclists. Sufferers experience severe chronic pain and tenderness around the IT band, especially above the knee joint.

The causes for iliotibial band syndrome include:

  • Overuse
  • Weak hips
  • Improper running form
  • Wearing incorrect shoes or orthotics
  • Tight tissue

Symptoms of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

By far, the most common symptom of those suffering from iliotibial band syndrome is swelling, tenderness and pain outside the area of the knee. Many times, the pain can cause sufferers to think they have a knee injury but this is not the case.

One of the first clues an injury may be a result of ITBS is when the knee is bent at a 45-degree angle. If pain is felt on the outside of the knee, this is a key indicator it may be an iliotibial band injury. Typically, an MRI is used to confirm the diagnosis and display the thickening of the band (due to inflammation).

Treatment for Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Although many runners don’t like to hear it, the most effective treatment for IT Band Syndrome is rest. If the pain is ignored and the running schedule remains unchanged, there is a chance the pain can become chronic.

Other common ways to relieve pain at home include proper stretching before and after a run, ice packs, heat pads, topical cortisone cream, massage and anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication.

If these methods are not providing relief, it is advisable to consult a sports medicine specialist.Your specialist may prescribe cortisone injections to help the IT Band Syndrome pain dissipate.

In rare cases when none of these treatment methods have provided relief, surgery may be required if patients wish to return to their sport or active lifestyle without pain or compromise. Typically, surgery is minimally invasive and uses an arthroscope to clean and / or resect (cut out) the part of the IT band causing pain. Recovery takes several weeks and a follow up with the surgeon is required.


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