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  • Writer's pictureAnnabel Ngo

Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome:

The Iliotibial (IT) band is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outer side of the thigh from the hip to just below the outside of the knee. The main function of the IT band is to stabilise the knee joint during movement and assist in various leg movements, especially those involving the hip and knee. It plays a role in activities like running, walking, and cycling by helping to control the movement of the thigh and the alignment of the knee.


Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the Iliotibial band becomes irritated or swollen from rubbing against your hip or knee bones. It often occurs in runners and athletes, causing pain on the outer part of the knee or thigh. Overuse, poor biomechanics, and muscle imbalances are common factors contributing to this condition.


Cause of IT band syndrome:

IT band syndrome is primarily caused by repetitive friction between the iliotibial band and the lateral femoral condyle, which is the bony bump on the outer side of the knee joint. This friction can lead to irritation and inflammation of the IT band.

Several factors can contribute to the development of IT band syndrome:


1. Overuse:

· Engaging in activities involving repetitive bending and extending of the knee, such as running or cycling can lead to overuse and irritation of the IT band

2. Muscle imbalances:

· Weaknesses or imbalances in the muscles surrounding the hip and thigh

· E.g. hip abductors and gluteal muscles can cause the IT band to become tight and pull excessively on the knee joint during movement

3. Poor biomechanics can stress and irritate the IT band

· Incorrect movement mechanics such as excessive pronation (rolling inward) of the foot

· Poor alignment of the leg such as knock knees or bowed legs increases stress placed on the IT band

4. Sudden increase in intensity of physical activity:

· This can strain the IT band, causing inflammation

5. Inadequate warming up or stretching:

· This can cause irritation of the IT band


Symptoms of IT band syndrome:

Symptoms usually develop gradually instead of appearing suddenly. After physical activity, pain may continue, especially at rest or while sleeping.

1. Pain on the Outer Knee or Thigh:

· The most common symptom is pain along the outside of the knee joint or thigh.

· The pain may start as a dull ache and slowly become sharper, especially during activities that involve bending and extending the knee, such as running, walking, or going downstairs

2. Pain Worsening with Activity:

· Pain is usually more noticeable when engaging in certain activities that put stress on the IT band, such as running downhill or cycling.

3. Tenderness:

· There may be tenderness and sensitivity along the path of the IT band, especially where it crosses the lateral femoral condyle (the bony bump on the outer part of the knee joint).

4. Swelling or Inflammation:

· The affected area may become swollen or inflamed due to irritation of the IT band

5. Crepitus:

· A sensation of "creaking" or "snapping" might occur as the IT band moves over the lateral femoral condyle.


Treatment for IT band syndrome:

Treatment for IT band syndrome usually involves a combination of strategies to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, address contributing factors, and promote healing. Common treatment options include:


1. Activity Modification:

· Allow your body to heal by reducing or modifying activities that aggravate the IT band, such as running or cycling. Low-impact exercises such as swimming or stationary cycling can help maintain fitness without putting stress on the IT band.

2. Ice:

· Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce pain.

· Apply an ice pack for about 15-20 minutes several times a day, especially after activity.

3. Massage therapy:

· Massaging the muscles (hip, quadricep and gluteal muscles) that surround the IT band can help release the tension along the IT band

· Stretching surrounding muscles of the IT band to improve flexibility and also reduce tension

4. Physical therapy:

· Strengthening Exercises:

§ Strengthening the hip abductor and gluteal muscles can help improve the alignment of the leg and reduce strain placed on the IT band.

§ Exercises like clamshells, lateral leg raises, and bridges are usually recommended.

· Working with a physiotherapist can help provide a personalised exercise plan to improve an muscle imbalances and biomechanics to aid in recovery

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