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Common Conditions

Iliotibial Band Syndrome


Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is common among runners. ITBS is often caused by repetitively bending the knee during physical activities, such as running, cycling, swimming, and climbing. The IT band is a group of fibers that run the length of the upper leg, from the hip to the top of the shin. When overused, the IT band can become tightened. ITBS is caused by excessive friction from the IT band being overly tight and rubbing against bone. It is primarily an overuse injury from repetitive movements. ITBS causes friction, irritation, and pain when moving the knee. It is especially common for runners and cyclists. It can even develop from repetitively walking up and downstairs, wearing high heels or sitting for long periods with bent knees.

Symptoms of IT band syndrome may vary slightly from person to person in intensity and how they appear. Some symptoms include pain when running or doing other activities involving the outside of the knee, a clicking sensation where the band rubs against the knee, lingering pain after exercise, the knee is tender to touch, tenderness in buttocks and redness and warmth around the knee especially the outer aspect. Symptoms typically begin a short time after starting the physical activity. The most common symptom of IT band syndrome is pain on the outside of the knee that gets worse if the person continues the activity causing the pain. As a person continues to run or participate in a similar activity, the IT band will continue to rub against the outside of the knee, leading to swelling and severe pain.

Physical therapy can help with Iliotibial Band Syndrome. A physical therapist will use manual therapy moves and manipulate muscles and joints to improve range of motion and strength. To build muscle strength, exercises targeting hip and core muscles will be prescribed. This is especially useful for athletes performing endurance sports to have a strong core to stabilize the hip and knee joints during repetitive leg motions. Functional training will also be incorporated to challenge the body to learn the correct way to move and prevent recurrence of injury. If in doubt, seek professional advice.