Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) is the leading cause of outer thigh and knee pain in runners. The IT band extends from the pelvis to the outer lower portion of the knee. This syndrome is caused by continued rubbing of the band over the outer boney prominences of the thigh, often causing pain, tightness and sometimes swelling. Rarely, an isolated traumatic event may cause this as well. Symptoms occur when the foot strikes the ground. These symptoms may not occur at the immediate onset of activates, but may progress as the activity continues. Pain may also be felt after the cessation of activates, often at night.
Younger athletes that are going through a growth spurt and involved in heavy activities are often at risk. Diagnosis is usually based on a combination of history, physical examination and radiographs. Plain x-rays will not show the IT band, but they can reveal related findings, such as bone spur or calcific deposit in the outer thigh or upper leg region. An MRI can often show soft tissue inflammation in the area of the symptoms, but can also rule-out other causes of pain.
Treatment is consistent with conservative care such as icing, activity restrictions, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. Injection therapy may be considered if initial treatment measures do not resolve the symptoms. Rarely is surgical intervention is indicated. The great majority of patients respond to nonsurgical treatment.