Iliotibial Band Syndrome

IT band syndrome is an overuse injury resulting from inflammation of iliotibial band. The IT band is a tough group of fibers that begins at the hip and runs along the outside of the thigh to insert on the shin (tibia) just below the knee joint. Its function is to coordinate with the thigh muscles and provide stability the knee joint. IT band syndrome occurs when the IT band becomes inflamed, commonly due to friction from overuse at the hip or knee. It commonly occurs in athletes, particularly cyclists and runners.

IT band syndrome can occur from quickly increasing distances with running or cyclical activities. Other predisposing factors associated with the injury include running on uneven surfaces, wearing improper fitting shoes, uneven leg length, muscle imbalance, over pronation of the foot, and bowed legs.

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and restore function. Treatment options include:

  • Allow the joints to rest to reduce the inflammation. Do not run or participate in any physical activity that may aggravate your symptoms.
  • Ice packs should be applied to the site of discomfort which can help to diminish swelling and pain.  Ice should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days.  We do not recommend placing ice directly on the skin.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful to reduce pain and swelling.
  • A foam roller may be used underneath the tight IT band to stretch it. Although this is painful, it is one of the most useful stretches to relieve the tissues.
  • Formal physical therapy can help direct stretching and strengthening exercise to treat IT band syndrome.