Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a common overuse injury in runners and cyclists. It accounts for up to 12 percent of all running related injuries (Fredericson, et al., 2000). The IT band is made up of dense fibrous connective tissues and runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee.
The soreness can come from repetitive friction of the IT band if too many miles are run or cycled. Some believe that the development of the painful syndrome is the result of the biomechanics of the individual and is related to hip adduction and knee rotation. Others believe that ITBS is related to strength imbalances in the hip muscles.
The primary complaint of people with IT band syndrome is diffuse pain over the lateral part of the knee. Typically, the pain is reported after exercise or a few minutes into exercise, but if left untreated, the pain can even occur at rest. Although ITBS can be easy to diagnose, it can be extremely challenging to treat (Khaund & Flynn, 2005).
Treatment usually involves activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, deep tissue massage, stretching, and strengthening. A modification of your exercise regimen is usually the first thing your doctor might suggest. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication and ice may also be recommended for the condition. In more stubborn cases, a cortisone shot may be given to relieve the pain. After the inflammation is under control, you may be referred to a physical therapist who is trained in deep tissue massage for the condition and can help you stretch properly in order to lengthen the IT band. Strengthening the hip area will probably be the next step of rehabilitation. A study at Stanford University found that after six weeks of rehab focusing on hip abduction strengthening, runners were pain free and able to return to running.
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.