Iliotibial band syndrome, also referred to as IT band syndrome, is a common cause of pain on the outside of the knee. It is one of the most common overuse injuries amongst runners. 4.3-7.5% of long distance runners will have some occurrence of IT band syndrome. The IT band is a thick band of tissue that begins at the hip, runs down the outside of the thigh, and attaches below the outside of the knee onto the shin bone (tibia). The IT band runs over prominent bony structures at the hip and knee and can become irritated as it repeatedly rubs against these bony areas. The friction at the bony prominences will be increased if the IT band is taut or inflexible. IT band syndrome surprisingly affects as many experienced runners as new runners and more women are currently affected than men. IT band syndrome also affects adolescents going through a rapid phase of growth.
The most common causes of IT band syndrome are running too often in the same direction/same side of the road, excessive pronation of the foot (running on the inside of the foot), improper stretching before running, sudden increase in mileage or activity, and weakness or tightness in surrounding musculature (especially hip and core). The most common signs and symptoms of IT band syndrome are pain along the outside of the knee, clicking or popping when the knee is bent then straightened, and pain around the hip. The best self-test for IT band syndrome is to bend your knee at a 45 degree angle and access if you have pain on the outside of your knee. Pain on the outside of the knee is indicative of IT band syndrome. The first step in controlling IT band syndrome is to control the inflammation by rest and frequent application of ice. Increasing flexibility and strengthening of the hip and knee musculature is the next step. Physical therapists can assist with developing a training program to assist with your needs.
There is a remedy for IT band syndrome. Do not try to run through the pain hoping it will improve; this will only increase the inflammation and irritation. The first step in getting better is to rest and apply ice frequently. Remember, IT band syndrome can be prevented by avoiding overtraining, stretching regularly, and allowing for adequate rest. It is important to eliminate what caused the problem initially, mend the damage, and prevent recurrence. There is help available, act now before it worsens!