The Iliotibial band is a fibrous band of tissue that begins in the hip, runs along the outside of the thigh and attaches to the shin bone just below the knee joint. Its function is to coordinate with the thigh muscles and provide stability to the knee as well as hip joints.
Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury characterized by inflammation of the iliotibial band. It occurs when the band is overdeveloped or becomes tight causing it to rub against the outer portions of the hip or knee bones.
The condition commonly occurs in athletes, cyclists, and runners. It can occur from quickly increasing distances with running or biking type activities. Other predisposing factors associated with the injury include running on uneven surfaces, wearing improper fitting shoes, uneven leg length, muscle imbalance, over pronation of foot, and bowed legs.
You may have pain on the outer side of the knee or hip, swelling at the site of injury, and a popping sensation when the knee or hip are bent or straightened.
The American Spine Center offers treatment for iliotibial band syndrome which can limit your regular activities as well as your performance in sports.
The goal of the treatment is to reduce the inflammation, relieve pain and improve function. Treatment options include:
- Rest: Allow the joint to rest to reduce the inflammation. Do not run or participate in any physical activity that may worsen the pain.
- Ice application: Ice packs should be applied to the site of injury which will help to diminish swelling and pain. Ice should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days. Never place ice directly over the skin.
- Medications: Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy: Physiotherapists will teach you stretching exercises and techniques to loosen the tight structures. This exercise is done by holding the affected knee close to the opposite armpit while keeping the other leg straight on the floor. These exercises help to strengthen the iliotibial band and the surrounding muscles. The use of a foam roller may be recommended to loosen a tight iliotibial band. Although this is painful, it is one of the most useful stretches to relieve your symptoms.
- In case of severe symptoms, a corticosteroid injection may be administered at the site of injury
Also, wearing appropriate shoes while running is also recommended to prevent further damage to the iliotibial band.