In this Article

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of IT band syndrome is pain in the outer hip, thigh, or knee. The pain may be mild and go away after a warm-up. Or, the pain can be quite intense and persistent during exercise.

Other symptoms of IT band syndrome include:

  • A snapping or popping sound in the knee
  • Swelling
  • Needle-like prickling feeling

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor if you have pain that doesn’t get better after a few weeks or gets worse. If left untreated, IT band syndrome can cause scarring in the bursa [BUHR-sah], a fluid-filled sac that is a sort of cushion between the IT band and the bone. Scaring can limit the range of motion in the knee or hip and create more pain.

Causes

Although IT band syndrome is usually caused by overuse, it can also be caused by:

  • A tight IT band
  • Bad form (alignment) during exercise
  • Being in poor condition
  • Bowed legs
  • Exercising without warming up
  • Doing more than your body is used to

Diagnosis and Tests

Your doctor will ask you about medical history, your symptoms, and your recent activities. During the exam, your doctor will likely feel your leg and ask you to move it in a certain way so they can check your range of motion. Most of the time, this is enough to diagnose IT band syndrome.

In some cases, your doctor may need imaging tests to help with the diagnosis, including:

  • Ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create an image of the structures in your leg and joints.
  • MRI. This test uses radio waves and magnets to create an image of the soft tissues and any damage that may be present.

Treatments

Treatment for IT band syndrome will be based on is the severity of your pain and injury. Some treatments include:

  • Rest. Stopping the activity that causes pain may relieve the pain and inflammation.
  • Ice. Placing an ice pack on the painful areas for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times a day can reduce pain and swelling. Never put ice directly on the skin.
  • Medicine. Pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen may help with pain and inflammation. In more severe cases, a corticosteroid injection may be needed.
  • Exercises to stretch the IT band and strengthen the surrounding muscles. These can be done with or without the assistance of a physical therapist.
  • Changing the length and intensity of your exercise routine
  • Massage and/or heat therapy. These treatments can help loosen the IT band and surrounding muscles.

Surgery may be recommended if the pain does not get better with conservative treatment.

Prevention

You can prevent IT band syndrome by:

  • Warming up and stretching before any activity
  • Allowing yourself enough time to recover between activities
  • Replacing your running shoes at every 450 to 500 miles.
  • Using a foam roller to help loosen your IT band
  • Running with a shorter stride or on flat surfaces
  • Having your bike fitted and adjusted by a professional to ensure proper posture

What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

The iliotibial [ILL-ee-oh-TIH-bee-ahl] (IT) band is a thick band of stretchy, fibrous tissue that connects at the top of the pelvic bone and runs down along the outside of the leg to just below the knee. The IT band helps with both bending and flexing at the knee. IT band syndrome is causes pain on the outside of the knee and sometimes in the outer hip. The pain is a result of irritation and inflammation due to overuse or improper posture and movement during exercise.

It band syndrome is most common in runners, hikers, and cyclists.