Iliotibial band syndrome or IT band syndrome (ITBS) is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. The IT band is a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the outside of the hip to the outside of the knee at the top of the shinbone (tibia) to help stabilize and move the knee joint. Repetitive bending and extending of the knee among distance runners is the usual cause of IT band syndrome.
Researchers are still debating the exact cause of IT band syndrome. When the band becomes tight, it causes friction as it moves over the lower outer edge of the thighbone (femur), which may result in inflammation in the bone, tendons, and small, fluid-filled sacs around the knee, causing pain.
Symptoms of ITBS
The most notable symptom of IT band syndrome is pain on the outside of the knee. An MRI can confirm ITBS because inflammation causes the band to thicken.
Causes of ITBS
IT band syndrome can result from any activity that causes the leg to turn inward repeatedly, including wearing worn-out shoes, weak glutes, and running downhill, in the same direction, or too many miles.
The best way to stop ITBS is to rest immediately. Without rest, ITBS can become chronic. While resting from running, a good option for a workout is cross-training, swimming, pool running, cycling, or rowing. Stretching, ice or heat, anti-inflammatories, an ultrasound, or electrical stimulation with topical cortisone can help to relieve pain.
- Walk to warm up and loosen the IT band before running.
- Strengthen your glutes and core to help take the load off of the IT band.
- Wear supportive shoes and orthotics, especially if over pronating.
- Switch the direction if running on a track.
If the IT band syndrome doesn’t improve with rest, a DOC sports medicine specialist can determine the proper diagnosis with a thorough examination and imaging, and the best treatment options.