IT Band syndrome or iliotibial band syndrome is a condition in the knee and thigh as a result of an overuse of the tissues. IT Band syndrome is more commonly seen in people who employ activities such as hiking, cycling, running, weight-lifting and squatting because of injury to the iliotibial band in the knee and thigh area.

The IT band runs along the lateral aspect of the thigh at the outer portion from the pelvis up to the knee area. The IT band is important in stabilizing the knee during extension and flexion of the joint during activities that involve the legs. When overuse injury develops on the IT band as a result of continuous rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, inflammation can develop leading to pain in the thighs and knees.

IT band syndrome is the most common cause of pain in the lateral knees among runners who frequently flex and extend their knees during their routines.

Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome

IT band syndrome commonly occurs with moderate to severe pain along the lateral aspect of the knees where the IT band connects or throughout the thigh where the IT band runs through. Pain can be further described as:

  • Stinging sensation
  • Develops over time and may not be present during the acute phase of injury
  • The pain is more intensified when the heel strikes the ground
  • The pain may persist after any activity involving the legs
  • The pain may also occur above or below the knee especially where the IT band attaches to the tibia

Aside from pain, there is also an evident swelling along the femur with indication of thickening as a result of the swelling underneath the skin.

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

IT band syndrome can be caused by various factors such as:

  • Faults in the normal anatomy of the feet and legs

When the normal anatomic position of the lower extremities is affected, the chances are, there is an increased tension placed over the IT band just to stabilize the knees and the rest of the legs. These abnormalities may include under and over pronation of the foot, flat foot, high arches, bow legs and uneven leg length. The presence of weak abductor muscles may also lead to IT band syndrome because of the severe tension on the lateral portion of the thighs.

  • Overuse injury

Overuse injury as a result of training habits can also lead to IT band syndrome. Overuse injury may be seen in inadequate warm up and cool down in each exercise, running on banked surfaces (because of extreme stretching of the band), excessive downhill and uphill running, excessive inward angle of the toes while cycling, rowing, long distance hiking and swimming in breast stroke.

Managements for IT Band Syndrome

The main management of IT band syndrome is to reduce the pain and discomforts while promoting recovery and repair. Sports or exercise involving the thighs and knees should be avoided when symptoms are still present to prevent further tension on the IT band. Treatment of IT band syndrome is also patterned with the RICE therapy consisting of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Although IT band syndrome can be easily managed, prevention is still very important as the pain may inhibit people to perform their usual tasks. Prevention would mean using proper support during any physical activity involving the legs and warming up and cooling down effectively in each workout.