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Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome is a condition that causes increasing pain in the knee and hip, and most frequently occurs in athletes. The sports medicine and knee care specialists at Beacon Orthopaedics provide treatment to reduce pain and promote healing from iliotibial band syndrome so that our patients can get back to the activities they love.

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What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), also referred to as iliotibial band friction syndrome, is a condition that results from irritation or swelling of the iliotibial band. The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs along the outside of the thigh and stretches from the hip bone to the top of the shin bone (tibia). When the leg is bent and extended, the iliotibial band moves along the outer edge of the thigh bone (femur). If the iliotibial band becomes excessively tight, repeated bending and extending can cause the friction of the iliotibial band’s movement to irritate tissues nearby.1

Causes of Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome caused by friction when the iliotibial band rubs against other tissues and is seen most commonly in athletes who frequently bend and/or extend their knees, such as:

  • Runners
  • Skiers
  • Basketball players
  • Cyclists
  • Hockey players
  • Soccer players

People who aren’t necessarily athletes may still be affected by iliotibial band syndrome if they have risk factors such as:

  • One leg that is longer than the other
  • Bowed legs
  • Arthritis in the knee
  • Rotating the foot, ankle, or leg inward when walking or moving
  • Weakened muscles in the hip, buttocks, or abdomen2

Treatment for Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Non-Surgical Treatment for Iliotibial Band Syndrome

At Beacon Orthopaedics, it is our policy to recommend the least invasive treatment necessary to alleviate a patient’s pain and symptoms. In the case of iliotibial band syndrome, non-surgical treatment includes:

  • RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation
  • Limiting activities that exacerbate pain of ITBS temporarily
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Posture modification

Surgery for Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Surgery is only used to treat iliotibial pain syndrome in very rare instances. During surgery for ITBS, the iliotibial band is lengthened slightly to reduce friction caused by bending or extending the knee.

Frequently Asked Questions About Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Can I prevent iliotibial band syndrome?

There are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of iliotibial band syndrome:

  • Stretch and warm up before exercise
  • Cool down after exercise
  • Rest between workouts
  • Wear shoes that are in good condition (not worn out)
  • Avoid training or running on uneven surfaces, such as on inclines

How can physical therapy help with ITBS?

A physical therapist can often identify issues with a person’s form that may contribute to symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome. This specialist can also help patients identify other factors that may be contributing to their symptoms (training schedule, running surface), select appropriate footwear, and practice exercises to help keep the iliotibial band loose, and perform friction massage to reduce swelling.

Contact Beacon Orthopaedics

If knee and hip pain from iliotibial band syndrome is preventing you from engaging in the sports you love or making normal daily activities uncomfortable, the knee care experts at Beacon Orthopaedics can help. Please contact us to schedule a consultation with a specialist.

1 Cedars-Sinai. Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Available: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/i/iliotibial-band-syndrome.html. Accessed September 6, 2022.
2 Cleveland Clinic. Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21967-iliotibial-band-syndrome. Accessed September 6, 2022.