Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury resulting from the inflammation of iliotibial band. The iliotibial band is a tough group of muscle fibers that begins at the top of the pelvis, runs along the outside of the thigh, and attaches to the outer side of the shin bone just below the knee joint. Its function is to coordinate with the thigh muscles to provide stability to the knee joint. Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the iliotibial band and the lower outside portion of the thigh bone at the knee joint rub against each other. It commonly occurs in athletes, cyclists, and runners.

Iliotibial band syndrome can occur from quickly increasing distances with running or biking type activities. Other predisposing factors include running on uneven surfaces, wearing improper fitting shoes, uneven leg length, muscle imbalance, over pronation of the foot, and bowed legs.

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and to relieve pain. Treatment options include:

  • Rest: Allows irritation and inflammation of the iliotibial band to resolve. Rest includes avoiding any activity that may aggravate the underlying problem.
  • Ice application: Ice packs should be applied to the site of discomfort 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 on skin.
  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Foam Roller Myofascial Release: A foam roller is used underneath the tight iliotibial band to loosen it. Although this can be uncomfortable, it is one of the most useful stretches to relieve the tissues.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapists will teach you stretching exercises and techniques to loosen tight structures. These exercises help to strengthen the iliotibial band and the surrounding muscles.