IT Band Syndrome

What is IT Band syndrome?

It is inflammation of the ligament that stretches from the outside hip to the outside of the knee. Patients will often complain of pain at the hip or the knee joint when moving the affected limb. If the leg is kept extended or is not moving then symptoms usually subside. The patient may also feel a pain with clicking on the outside of the knee. This is due the IT band snapping across the knee joint during activity. The IT band is meant to stabilize the knee laterally and if this is compromised then damage to the joint may occur.

How do we diagnose IT band syndrome?

The doctor will perform a full physical and attain a complete history of the symptoms. IT band syndrome has very specific symptoms and therefore is fairly easy to diagnose without any advanced imaging. If confirmation of the diagnosis is needed then an MRI may be utilized to visualize the inflammation on the lateral side of the knee. An x-ray is not needed unless there is some risk of trauma to the bone.

What are the symptoms of IT band syndrome?

Pain at the lateral side of the knee that occurs upon heel strike is the most common complaint among patients. They may also experience a snapping or popping sound where the IT band is excessively moving across the knee joint. Walking up and down stairs can also increase symptoms for the patient. Pain may also radiate up to the hip and can be very debilitating.

What is the treatment for IT band syndrome?

Initially the physician may start with simple rest, icing, elevation, and compression to the affected leg. Massage therapy to the area of pain or foam rolling may be considered as well. Iontopheresis or phonopheresis are both modalities that can be administered by a physical therapist. Both of these treatment methods act to decrease inflammation to the area of pain. Steroid injections to the lateral knee at the site of pain also acts as an anti-inflammatory treatment. Oral NSAID’s such as Aleve or Ibuprofen may also help to decrease inflammation to the IT band. With the inflammation decreased aggressive physical therapy can be used to help stretch the IT band and its surrounding structures. With less strain to the band there will be less inflammation to the insertion of the IT Band.

Custom orthotics may also be helpful in correcting any abnormal foot motion that is affecting the knee and hip. If the foot is flat then strain will become more apparent to the lateral knee. The orthotic will correct the decreased arch and support the foot so that there is less strain to the tendons and joints above the ankle. Surgical treatment is not necessary unless there is some other underlying issue causing the pain not related to the IT band.