Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in runners, related to repetitive friction of the iliotibial band (ITB) sliding over the lateral femoral epicondyle.
Runners predisposed to this injury are typically in a phase of over-training and often have underlying weakness of the hip abductor muscle. Male runners may exhibit kinematic faults such as increased hip internal rotation and knee varus, and weakness in the external rotator muscles of the hip. Female runners may exhibit increased hip adduction and knee internal rotation, and abnormal iliotibial band strain and strain rate.
In the acute phase, treatment includes activity modification, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroid injection in cases of severe pain or swelling.
During the sub-acute phase, emphasis is on stretching of the ITB and soft-tissue therapy for any myofascial restrictions.
The recovery phase focuses on a series of exercises to improve hip abductor strength and integrated movement patterns. The final return to running phase is begun with an every-other-day programme, starting with easy sprints and avoidance of hill training with a gradual increase in frequency and intensity.
Surgery can be considered in refractory cases.
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in runners. It results from repetitive friction of the iliotibial band (ITB) sliding over the lateral femoral epicondyle, moving anterior to the epicondyle as the knee extends and posterior as the knee flexes, and remaining tense in both positions. However, some functional anatomists and musculoskeletal radiologists consider ITBS a possible compression syndrome. The soft tissue involved may include the iliotibial band attachment into the lateral epicondyle of the femur, underlying adipose and bursal tissue, and distal ligamentous insertions into Gerdy's tubercle of the tibia.      
Research Physical Therapist
Emeryville Sports Physical Therapy
RLB declares that he has no competing interests.
Associate Professor and Director
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Clinics
MF declares that he has no competing interests.
Robert L. Baker and Dr Michael Fredericson would like to gratefully acknowledge Jenson C. Mak, a previous contributor to this topic.
JCM declares that he has no competing interests.
Chief of PM&R
Ann Arbor VA Medical Center
RW has been reimbursed by the University of Michigan for attending several conferences; RW has been paid an honorarium for speaking at the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine national meeting. RW has been paid by NIOSH, the American Dental Association, and SmartHealth as a consultant and has received grant funding from the UAW/GM Health and Safety Board (over US$1 million).
Use of this content is subject to our disclaimer