Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome

Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome Injuries

Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome is one of the most frequent causes of knee pain, most commonly affecting runners and cyclists. The IT Band is composed of thickened connective tissue and runs along the course of the outside of the thigh, transferring forces between the hip and knee. The IT Band arises from 3 points in the hip area: the gluteus maximus muscle, the iliac crest (top of the hip bone), and tensor fascia latae muscle. This firm tissue runs down the leg and inserts just below the knee.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is a painful condition that primarily affects the outside portion of the knee as this is most commonly the site of friction on the tissue. The IT Band runs over the lateral condyle of the femur and if increased tension is present, repetitive motions can increase friction in this area leading to inflammation and pain. An overactive IT Band can also negatively impact patellar alignment as well.

Causes of Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome

IT Band Syndrome is worsened in those individuals with decreased hip and gluteal muscle strength. When the hips and gluteal muscles are weak, the hip tends to inwardly rotate contributing to more tightness as the hip lowers and the knee collapses inwards as well. This inward collapse of the hip and knee can be exaggerated even more in a person with "flat feet" or wearing unsupportive shoes during physical activity.

Signs & Symptoms of Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome

Stabbing or stinging pain along the outside of the knee
A feeling of the band snapping over the knee as it bends and straightens
Swelling near the outside of your knee
Occasionally, tightness and pain at the outside of the hip
Continuous pain following activity, particularly with running, cycling, walking, going up or down stairs, or moving from a sitting to standing position

Pain is usually most intense when the knee is in a slightly bent position, either right before or right after the foot strikes the ground. This is the point where the IT Band experiences the most friction.

How Can I Prevent Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome?

The primary way to prevent IT Band syndrome is to be proactive with hip and gluteal muscle strengthening, specifically the Gluteus Medius and Minimus muscles. These muscles act to stabilize the pelvis in functional activities and help encourage proper lower extremity posture and alignment. In addition, foam rolling over the IT Band and Gluteal muscles can help stretch and lengthen tight tissues, but without proper strengthening and stabilization, there is an increased risk for these muscles to remain inflexible. Don't forget to wear proper, supportive footwear while exercising too.