Iliotibial band syndrome

What is iliotibial band syndrome?

The iliotibial band is a band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh. It provides stability to the knee and hip and helps prevent dislocation of those joints. The band may overdevelop, tighten, and rub across the hipbone or the outer part of the knee. Each time the knee is bent or the hip flexed, the band rubs against bone. This is particularly common in runners, cyclists, and people who participate in other aerobic activities.


What are the symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome?

Symptoms may include pain on the outside of the knee or hip. You may have snapping hip pain as the iliotibial band snaps back and forth over the bony point of the hip. The pain may improve with rest or go away when the band is stretched out and becomes more flexible.

When to call

Iliotibial band syndrome: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have pain in your hip or knee that doesn't go away.
  • You do not get better as expected.


How is iliotibial band syndrome treated?

Iliotibial band syndrome is treated with rest, medicines to relieve swelling and pain, and stretching exercises as instructed by a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor. Steroid injections at the most tender spot are sometimes helpful.


How can you care for yourself when you have iliotibial band syndrome?

  • Rest the affected leg. You may need to change or avoid activities that cause pain.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about exercises that will help ease hip and knee pain.
    • Stretch before you exercise. This can help prevent stiffness and injury. You can try gentle forms of yoga to help keep your joints and muscles flexible.
    • Use exercises that are less stressful on the joints. Walk instead of jog. Ride a stationary bike with little resistance. Or you can swim or try water exercise.
    • Do exercises that can help strengthen your IT band and hip muscles. Your doctor or physical therapist can tell you what kind of exercises are best for you. The doctor or physical therapist can help you learn the right way to do the exercises.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight puts extra strain on your hip and knee joints.

Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.


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