All about Iliotibial Band Syndrome
The knee joint is a complex of muscles, tendons and cartilage that must all work in unison to support and move the leg properly. Overuse injuries (such as patellar tendinitis or bursitis of the knee), as well as the effects of aging (like arthritis, gout, and deterioration of the cartilage) can all play a part in bringing on chronic knee pain.
The individuals most prone to develop iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) are athletes involved in sports that require a lot of running, like soccer or track and field events. Hence, the condition’s common name, Runner’s Knee.
What is Illiotibial Band Syndrome?
Iliotibial Band Syndrome is an inflammation of the iliotibial band (a large tendon that connects the hip to the knee) that involves pain along the side of the knee joint, usually beginning after a particularly strenuous period of exercise. But, unlike standard next-day soreness, this knee pain eventually progresses to the point of interfering with everyday activities such as walking and going up or down stairs. It can even cause pain when the knee is stationary in a bent position (such as while sitting at a desk or on the couch.)
Iliotibial Band Syndrome v. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
While many of the causes and risk factors involved in iliotibial band syndrome are similar to the equally common patellofemoral pain syndrome, and while both conditions are commonly referred to as “runner’s knee” there is a marked difference between the two. Specifically, patellofemoral pain syndrome results in progressive pain that forms in the front of the knee, behind and surrounding the patella (knee cap). Iliotibial band syndrome, on the other hand, results in pain along the outer side of the knee at the point where the iliotibial band connects to the end of the tibia (shin bone) and the patella.
It’s normal for runners and other active people to deal with soreness and pain in muscles and joints for a day or more after an intense workout. But chronic pain that starts at the workout and gets progressively worse is likely a sign of injury or a chronic inflammation.
- Progressively worsening pain along the outer side of the knee, usually starting 5-7 minutes into a run
- Rarely, swelling or redness in that area. (If swelling occurs, you may need to see a doctor to help you diagnose whether your issue is ITBS or a lateral miniscus tear.)
Causes and Risk Factors
- Consistent over exertion
- Poorly balanced muscle development
- Poor running form
- Inflexibility (especially of the gluteus maximus and quadriceps)
- Overpronation, underpronation, or flat feet
- Congenital hip/ankle/knee imbalances
Relieving the pain caused by iliotibial band syndrome requires that you
- Reduce the inflammation Lessen or eliminate the causes of knee joint stress
- Support the IT band and knee structure during activity
Doctors treating runner’s knee may recommend rest, ice, over-the-counter pain relief, stretches, and strengthening.