Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome is caused by inflammation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of connective tissue that runs down the outside of the leg. The iliotibial band starts up at the hip and extends down to the outer side of the leg just below the knee. The band functions along with other thigh muscles to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint.

Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when a repetitive motion irritates the bands thick connective tissue.  The irritation usually occurs over the outside of the knee joint. The iliotibial band crosses bone and muscle at the knee joint where there is a bursa which should facilitate a smooth gliding motion. However, when inflamed, the iliotibial band does not glide easily, and pain associated with movement is the result.

The function of the iliotibial band is both to provide stability to the knee and to assist in flexion of the knee joint. When irritated, movement of the knee joint becomes painful. Usually the pain worsens with continued movement, and resolves with rest.

Common symptoms of ITBS include:

  • Pain over the outside of the knee joint
  • Swelling at the location of discomfort
  • A snapping or popping sensation as the knee is bent

Endurance athletes are especially prone to developing iliotibial band syndrome. Athletes who suddenly increase their level of activity, such as runners who increase their mileage, often develop iliotibial band syndrome.

Once the acute symptoms are controlled, patients should make efforts to increase flexibility and strength of the hip and knee. Most rehabilitation protocols focus on both hip and knee function, as the iliotibial band requires proper mechanics of both of these joints for normal function. Working with Dr. Erik can help you ensure you are developing an appropriate treatment strategy. Runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes should find cross-training techniques that allow maintenance of their endurance without continuation of their discomfort.