Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Approach
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a common running injury that's associated with overuse and strain on the iliotibial band, which leads to it becoming inflamed and tight. This band, which is actually a ligament, starts at the pelvis and runs along the outside of the thigh to the knee. It helps stabilise the knee joint, and when it's inflamed, runners experience pain on the outside of their knee.
As ITBS is related to overuse, it can be caused by running too many miles, and you can develop the condition whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner. Strain on the iliotibial band can occur as a result of running downhill, wearing shoes that don't provide appropriate support and running on uneven surfaces, all of which can cause your feet and legs to repeatedly turn inward.
Aside from pain along the outside of the knee, ITBS can also cause tightness down the outside of the thigh. The pain and tightness will intensify when you run, and you should find resting the affected leg will bring some relief. If the condition is left untreated, you'll experience pain every time your heel goes down to take a step. Your knee may also appear swollen and may be warm to the touch.
A podiatrist will diagnose ITBS by taking details of your symptoms and gently examining your knee and leg for tightness and swelling. If they feel unsure about what's causing your symptoms, they will arrange an MRI scan to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as torn cartilage. Once diagnosed, your podiatrist will outline a treatment approach, which will include the following:
- Rest - Continuing to run will only aggravate your symptoms and prevent your body's natural healing process being able to do its job, so rest until your podiatrist gives you the all clear.
- Medication - If the pain and swelling are severe, your podiatrist may suggest a short course of anti-inflammatory medication to kick-start healing.
- Exercises - Your podiatrist can show you targeted stretching exercises to loosen the iliotibial band by improving flexibility of the surrounding muscles.
- Orthotics - If your feet have been turning inward when you run, your podiatrist will measure them for custom-made orthotic insoles. The insoles redistribute your weight across your feet, and this takes pressure off your knees and provides extra support as the iliotibial band heals.
If you're experiencing the symptoms of ITBS, schedule a consultation with your podiatrist as soon as possible.