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What is the Iliotibial Band?

An iliotibial band is a tough group of fibers that runs from the iliac crest of the hip along the outside of the thigh, till the outer side of the shinbone, just below the knee joint. Its function is to coordinate with the thigh muscles and provide stability to the knee joint.

What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury resulting from the inflammation of the iliotibial band. It occurs when the iliotibial band and the lower outside portion of the thighbone at the knee joint rub against each other.

Causes of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome commonly occurs in athletes, cyclists, and runners, and can occur from quickly increasing distances with running or biking activities. Other predisposing factors associated with the injury include running on uneven surfaces, wearing improper fitting shoes, uneven leg length, muscle imbalance, overpronation of the foot and bowed legs.

Symptoms of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

iliotibial band syndrome may cause pain on the outer side of the knee, swelling at the site of injury, and a popping sensation may be felt when the knee is bent and then straightened. Pain may worsen after running, climbing stairs and walking and reduced when at rest.

Treatments of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The goal of the treatment is to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. The treatment options include:

  • Rest: Allow the joint to rest to reduce the inflammation. Do not run or participate in any physical activity that may worsen the pain.
  • Ice application: Ice packs should be applied to the site of injury to reduce swelling and pain. Ice should be applied over a towel on the affected area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for several days. Never place ice directly over the skin.
  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Foam roller myofascial release: A foam roller is used underneath the tight iliotibial band to loosen it. Although this is painful, it is one of the most useful stretches to relieve the tissues.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapists will teach you stretching exercises and techniques to loosen the tight structures. This exercise is performed by holding the affected knee close to the opposite armpit while keeping the other leg straight on the floor. These exercises help to strengthen the iliotibial band and the surrounding muscles.

Your doctor suggests you wear appropriate shoes while running to prevent further damage to the iliotibial band.

  • Alpha Omega Alpha
  • NYU
  • Hospital for Special Surgery
  • Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute