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What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome or Runner’s Knee?

Iliotibial band syndrome otherwise known as ITB syndrome, or “runner’s knee” is a very common injury experienced among active people. Around 20% of runners and cyclists will experience ITB syndrome. ITB syndrome commonly involves pain around the outer portion of the knee and thigh. This pain is typically aggravated by weight-bearing activity. ITB syndrome is an overuse condition. It typically occurs with an increase in training mileage, repetition of the same training routes, increase in hill training and long-distance training. ITB Syndrome can also occur in people who work in jobs that demand a lot of walking.

three people jogging

What is the Iliotibial Band?

Iliotibial Band illustration
Anatomically, the iliotibial band is a very dense, fibrous piece of connective tissue or fascia which blends with a lot of major muscle groups. The iliotibial band starts at the top of the outer portion of the hip and is an extension of the glute muscles. The IT band extends from the glutes blending with the hamstrings, quadriceps, and outer structures of the knee joint. The iliotibial band is a major stabilizer of the knee joint. The iliotibial band is the most active just after your foot hits the ground when stepping or running and at the bottom of pedalling with cycling. The iliotibial band is particularly active during the downhill portion of walking and running.

Symptoms of Runner’s Knee

People who experience iliotibial band syndrome typically report pain around the outer portion of their knee, swelling around the outer portion of the knee and pain that gets worse with activity. There are different theories about why ITB syndrome occurs. The most well-supported theory in research is that ITB syndrome is the result of excessive friction of the IT band repetitively gliding over a bony structure on the outer portion of the knee. Chronic friction in this area can cause significant swelling and even loss of mobility in the knee.

Physiotherapy for ITB Syndrome

With physiotherapy ITB syndrome can completely resolve in 2-4 weeks. A good physiotherapist will conduct a biomechanical analysis of your running/walking pattern and identify any muscular or joint imbalances. A physiotherapist will provide the appropriate trigger point therapy, myosfascial techniques, strapping and exercises to correct for these imbalances. Finally, a physiotherapist will provide you with guidance on how to change your training or work techniques and education on injury prevention strategies.

Book an appointment with Dianna Filippelli MScPT to learn how to successfully overcome iliotibial band syndrome!

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