Iliotibial Band Syndrome
(IT Band Syndrome)

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Iliotibial band syndrome facts

  • Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury of tissues of the outer thigh and knee.
  • The iliotibial band runs along the lateral or outside aspect of the thigh and is an important structure that stabilizes the outside of the knee as it flexes and extends.
  • Inflammation of the IT band can occur as it crosses back and forth across the bony prominence of the femoral epicondyle as the knee flexes and extends.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury causing pain on the outside part of the knee especially during running when the heel strikes the ground.
  • RICE and anti-inflammatory medications are first-line treatments.
  • Physical therapy may be helpful and, rarely, surgery is an option for those who fail to respond to first-line treatment options.
  • Prevention is a key component and includes maintaining flexibility of the low back and leg muscles.

What is iliotibial band syndrome?

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS or IT band syndrome) is an overuse injury of the tissues located on the outer part of thigh and knee. It causes pain and tenderness in those areas, especially just above the knee joint. Iliotibial band syndrome is more common in runners and bicyclists.

The iliotibial band is a thick band of tissue that begins at the iliac crest in the pelvis, runs down the outer part of the thigh, and crosses the knee to attach into the top part of the tibia or shinbone. The iliotibial (IT) band helps stabilize the outside part of the knee through its range of motion.

Picture of the iliotibial band
Picture of the iliotibial (IT) band

When the knee is flexed, the IT band is located behind the femoral epicondyle, a bony outcropping of the femur or thighbone at the knee. The IT band moves forward across the condyle when the knee is extended. There is a sac or bursa that allows the band to glide across the condyle, but should inflammation occur in this area, the increased friction from repeatedly rubbing the iliotibial band across the bony condyle can cause pain, especially along the outer (lateral) aspect of the knee joint.

If the symptoms are ignored, the inflammation can continue and scarring can occur in the bursa, decreasing knee range of motion and causing increasing pain with decreasing activity.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/4/2014

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