What is an Iliotibial Band Injury?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2018
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An iliotibial band injury often occurs during activities which require repetitive movements such as running. The iliotibial (IT) band runs down the side of the leg from the hip to the knee, and is important for stability. An injury to this band of tissue is usually known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), and causes pain on the outside of the knee. Symptoms include a red, sore point on the outer side of the knee and pain that increases with exercise. Treatment for an iliotibial band injury depends on the specific cause of the condition, but usually includes rest, icing, and stretching.

An iliotibial band injury usually occurs when the lower part of the IT band rubs against the outer part of the knee joint. A healthy band will move smoothly over the lower portion of the thigh bone, but during repetitive movements it can start to rub. This causes inflammation and pain, which gets worse with more exercise.

The iliotibial band isn’t a muscle, but instead a band of thick tissue. It originates from the hip bone and runs down the side of the leg before attaching to the shin. Since the band is so important for stability during activities that require lower body effort, an iliotibial band injury is a frequent problem that affects many athletes. The condition often begins when someone increases his or her activity levels suddenly. Runners are among the most at risk from developing an iliotibial band injury.


Symptoms of an iliotibial band injury usually come on slowly, as the condition is a repetitive strain problem. The pain can vary depending on the severity of the condition and may get worse during an activity. Some people will feel a stinging pain, which can occur both above and below the outside of the knee joint. Sometimes the problem will be confused with other causes of knee pain such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and plica syndrome. Aside from pain, there may also be swelling over the injured area.

Treatment for an iliotibial band injury nearly always begins with rest and icing. This, in and of itself, is often insufficient to cure the problem as the underlying cause is unaddressed. Some potential issues that may need to be resolved include biomechanical gait issues, tight muscles, and discrepancy in leg length. A physiotherapist will often be required to diagnose the specific problem. Sometimes a weakness in certain hip muscles may also need to be addressed.



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