Iliotibial band syndrome is an inflammation of the iliotibial band, which is a thick elastic tissue. The iliotibial band runs outside of the leg- from the top of the pelvic bone down to the knee. Iliotibial band syndrome can cause pain that is felt on the outer side of the knee. It is an overuse injury and one of the most common causes of knee pain. This condition is frequently seen in endurance sports such as running and cycling. Iliotibial band syndrome can occur as a result of training errors, poor flexibility of muscle, contact between the iliotibial band and the thigh, prolonged compression during repetitive activities, and abnormality issues in the legs and feet including bowed legs, abnormal tilts to the pelvis, and discrepancies in leg length. Other activities such as rowing and weightlifting can cause symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome.
Symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome include pain on the outside of the thigh by the knee or hip, pain that can be described as snapping (as the iliotibial band snaps over the hip), pain that may be felt from the hip down to where the iliotibial band attaches to the tibia, and pain that improves with rest or pain that worsens with activity.
Iliotibial band syndrome is diagnosed through a physical examination that includes range of motion tests, strength and flexibility measurements, and a movement analysis to assess walking/running mechanics, foot structure, and balance. Imaging tests such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not needed to identifying the condition.
Initial treatment options for iliotibial band syndrome include rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Other treatment options are temporary activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy, which focuses on flexibility and stretching. In severe cases that do not improve after implementing conservative treatment options, orthopedic or arthroscopic surgery may be needed.