The iliotibial band is a group of tough fibrous tissue that runs from the hip to the knee along the outside of the thigh. The function of the IT band is to provide stability to the knee joint in conjunction with other muscle groups. The injury, sometimes called IT Band syndrome or IT Band friction syndrome, is more common in athletes who run and who have increased their milage, have biomechanical problems with their gait or who consistently run on just one side of the road.
Biomechanical problems can include runners who overpronate, have a leg length discrepancy or are bow-legged. Each of these issues, as well as running on the same side of the road, puts increased stress on one side of the body over the other. This stress results in inflammation of the IT band and the symptoms that follow.
Diagnosis of the condition doesn’t require much testing. Often the practitioner will take a thorough history and ask about other injuries in the past. Pain on the outside of the knee or mid-thigh can be caused by other conditions, so a thorough examination will rule out other conditions.
Symptoms will include swelling and stiffness in the knee, redness and warmth at the joint, popping or crunching noises in the joint and an inability to fully straighten the knee. If the injury increases in severity you may feel as though your knee will ‘give out’ on you or you may be able to see a noticable deformity in the leg or at the knee. If you experience these symptoms it’s important to see an orthopedic surgeon for treatment recommendations in order to increase the potential that you’ll experience a fully functional recovery.
Treatment includes rest from activities that increase the pain and discomfort. YOu can cross train using swimming, running in the pool and cycling. Even rowing won’t place the stress on the IT band that running on a solid hard surface does. Once you aren’t experiencing pain with movement you can start incorporating side stretches that stretch the IT Band, as well as stretches for the Quads and hamstrings to stay balanced.
If your IT Band Syndrome doesn’t resolve between rest, cross training, ice and stretching, then it’s time to see a sports medicine physician. You have to eliminate the reason for developing the condition so it won’t come back. Otherwise, you could be facing a chronic IT Band Syndrome which will seriously limit the amount and kind of running you can do.
Runners World: ITBS
Competitor: How to Beat IT Band Syndrome
Active: How to Aggressively Treat IT Band Syndrome
Rice:Iliotibila Band Friction Syndrome
UPMC: IT Band Sydnrome
American Family PHysician: Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Sports Injury Clinic: Illiotibial Band Syndrome
MayoClinic: Knee Pain