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Iliotibial band syndrome (often called “IT band syndrome”) is a medical condition that causes pain on the outside of the knee. It most commonly happens in athletes, especially distance runners, or those new to exercise.
The bones of your knee joint are your thighbone (femur), your shinbone (tibia), and your kneecap (patella). Your iliotibial band is a strong, thick band of tissue that runs down the outside of your thigh. It extends all the way from your hip bones to the top of your shinbone.
When you bend and extend your leg, this band moves over the outer lower edge of your thighbone. With repeated bending and extending of the knee, this movement of the iliotibial band may irritate surrounding tissues, causing pain.
Although anyone can develop it, iliotibial band syndrome is relatively common in distance runners.
Researchers are still debating the exact cause of iliotibial band syndrome. The pain may result directly from friction as the iliotibial band moves over the lower outer edge of the thighbone. This may cause inflammation in the bone, tendons, and small, fluid-filled sacs in the area. The iliotibial band may also abnormally compress the tissue beneath it, causing pain.
Iliotibial band syndrome happens most commonly in distance runners, but it may also happen from other sports, like cycling, skiing, rowing, or soccer.
If you are a runner, you might be more likely to develop iliotibial band syndrome if:
Your healthcare provider will begin with a medical history, asking about your other medical problems as well as your current symptoms. You’ll receive a medical exam, including a thorough medical exam of your knee. This will include tests of your range of motion, strength, and areas of tenderness of your knee. Your healthcare provider will need to distinguish between iliotibial band syndrome and other possible cause of your knee pain, like osteoarthritis or a meniscal tear.
Your healthcare provider might suggest several different treatment strategies to help relieve your symptoms. These might include:
You may find it helpful to work with a physical therapist as well.
These modifications help most people with iliotibial band syndrome. Your healthcare provider might recommend surgery if you still have significant symptoms after 6 months of trying these other therapies. Several different surgical choices exist, including one that removes the part of the iliotibial band that moves over the femur. You can discuss all of your surgical choices with your healthcare provider.
In some cases, iliotibial band syndrome is preventable. To help prevent a flare-up of iliotibial band syndrome, you can take the following precautions:
If you are new to exercise, start slowly and gradually increase your activity.
Ask your healthcare provider or trainer if he or she has additional recommendations.
If your symptoms do not start to improve after several weeks of treatment, plan to see your healthcare provider soon. You may have a different kind of problem with your knee.
Iliotibial band syndrome is a medical condition that results in pain on the outside of your knee. It usually only happens in athletes, especially distance runners, but anyone can get it. It results from movement of the iliotibial band, which runs down the outside of the thigh:
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