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Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB)

What is ITB Syndrome?

Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome is a common overuse injury characterized by inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. This condition typically occurs in athletes and runners, especially those who engage in repetitive motions such as running or cycling. ITB syndrome can cause pain and discomfort on the outer side of the knee joint, limiting performance and impacting daily activities.

What are the causes of ITB Syndrome?

ITB syndrome often develops due to repetitive friction between the ITB and the bony prominence of the femur near the knee joint. This friction can result from activities that involve repeated bending and straightening of the knee, leading to irritation and inflammation of the ITB. Contributing factors to ITB syndrome may include overuse or repetitive activities such as running, cycling, or climbing stairs, muscle imbalances or weakness in the hip abductor and gluteal muscles, training errors such as sudden increases in mileage or intensity without adequate rest or recovery, and structural abnormalities such as leg length discrepancies or abnormal foot mechanics that can predispose individuals to ITB syndrome.

What are the symptoms of ITB Syndrome?

The symptoms of ITB syndrome typically manifest as pain and discomfort on the outer side of the knee joint, which may worsen with activity. Common symptoms include:

  1. Sharp or burning pain on the outer side of the knee, especially during activities that involve bending and straightening the knee.
  2. Swelling or inflammation over the lateral aspect of the knee joint.
  3. Tenderness to touch along the course of the iliotibial band, particularly near the knee joint.
  4. Gradual onset of symptoms that may worsen over time, especially with continued or repetitive activity.

How is ITB Syndrome diagnosed?

Dr. Shane J. Nho diagnoses ITB syndrome through a comprehensive evaluation, including a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, imaging studies, and diagnostic injections. Proper diagnosis is crucial for determining the underlying cause of hip instability and guiding appropriate treatment strategies to alleviate symptoms and improve function.

  1. Medical History Assessment: Reviewing the patient’s history of symptoms, previous injuries, training regimen, and any contributing factors.
  2. Physical Examination: A thorough examination of the hip, knee, and lower extremities to assess range of motion, muscle strength, and alignment.
  3. Functional Movement Assessment: Observing movement patterns and biomechanics during activities such as walking, running, or cycling.
  4. Imaging Studies: While ITB syndrome is primarily a clinical diagnosis, imaging studies such as MRI or ultrasound may be used to rule out other potential causes of knee pain or to assess for structural abnormalities.
  5. Diagnostic Injections: In some cases, diagnostic injections such as corticosteroid or lidocaine injections may be used to confirm the diagnosis and provide temporary pain relief.
At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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