Iliotibial Band Syndrome
What is iliotibial band syndrome?
Iliotibial band syndrome is inflammation and pain on the outer side of the knee. The iliotibial band is a layer of connective tissue on the outside of the thigh. It connects a muscle near the outer side of your hip to the outer side of your upper shin bone (tibia) in your lower leg.
What is the cause?
Iliotibial band syndrome happens when the iliotibial band gets irritated from rubbing over the bump of the thigh bone near the knee. This most often happens when you are running.
This problem may happen because you:
- have a tight iliotibial band
- have tight muscles in your hip, pelvis, or leg
- have legs that are not the same length
- run on sloped surfaces
- run in shoes with a lot of wear on the outside of the heel
What are the symptoms?
This problem causes pain on the outer side of the knee.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history, and examine your knee.
How is it treated?
To reduce swelling and pain in the first day or two, your provider will probably tell you to:
- Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth, on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- You could also do ice massage. To do this, first freeze water in a Styrofoam cup, then peel the top of the cup away to expose the ice. Hold the bottom of the cup and rub the ice over the painful area for 5 to 10 minutes. Do this several times a day while you have pain.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
Your provider may give you an injection of a steroid medicine.
How long it takes you to recover depends on many factors, such as your age, health, and history of previous injuries. A mild injury may get better in a few weeks, but a severe injury may take several months to heal. You need to stop doing the activities that cause pain until the iliotibial band has healed. If you keep doing activities that cause pain, your symptoms will come back and it will take longer to recover.
How can I take care of myself?
- Follow your treatment plan.
- Follow your provider’s instructions for doing exercises to help you recover.
- While your knee heals, you will need to change your sport or activity to activities that don’t make your problem worse. For example, ride a bicycle instead of run.
- Contact your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms.
When can I return to my normal activities?
Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your knee recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. In general, the longer you have symptoms before you start treatment, the longer it will take to get better. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.
You may safely go back to your normal activities when:
- Your injured knee can be fully straightened and bent without pain.
- Your knee and leg are again as strong as your uninjured knee and leg.
- You can walk or jog straight ahead without limping.
How can I help prevent iliotibial band syndrome?
The best way to prevent this problem is to warm up properly and do stretching exercises before sports or other physical activity.
Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.