Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a common inflammatory condition of the iliotibial band, a thick sheet of fibrous tissue. This band extends from the thigh to the portion just below the knee joint. It functions in coordination with the thigh muscles providing stability and flexibility to the knee joint. ITBS is also referred to as iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS). It is more common in the age group of 15 to 50 years.
Causes and Symptoms
The factors responsible for causing this ailment include muscular imbalances, anatomical abnormalities, and biochemical reactions in the body. People in whom the length of the two legs differ, who have flat feet, or who have an unusal running style are at a high risk of contracting this ailment. Excessive physical exertion causes inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial band. This condition may also occur due to lack of flexibility and strength in the band region.
Symptoms are pain, tenderness, and inflammation in the thigh and outer side of the knee. Pain worsens with continuous movement of the affected areas. Usually, symptoms vary depending upon the site of inflammation and its severity. For example, if a patient has inflammation in the distal part of the iliotibial band, then he/she will experience lateral knee pain. Similarly, if the inflammation is on the proximal portion, then the patient suffers from hip pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of ITBFS is based on the physical examination and medical history of the patient. For confirmation, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be done. The MRI result of a patient suffering from ITBS shows a thickened iliotibial band in the lateral epicondyle and fluid collection underneath the band.
Since this syndrome commonly occurs amongst athletes and recreationists, a sports medicine specialist would be better suited to provide treatment. Initial treatment is done by icing the affected part, limiting physical activity, physical therapy, massage therapy, stretching, and modifying the training or exercise. In case there is no improvement after following these procedures, the doctor may administer anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroid injection to alleviate pain and inflammation. In case of severe ITBFS, tendon-lengthening surgery is recommended which involves removal of the affected iliotibial band.
It has been observed that the recovery time of this syndrome differs based on the age, medical history, and overall health of the patient. A person affected with mild ITBS may recover in a few weeks time. If it is a severe case, he/she may take more than six months to recover.
In order to reduce the risk of ITBFS, it is always advisable to follow certain precautions, such as wearing comfortable footwear, doing proper warm up exercises, and running on an even surface. One should consult and seek advice from a qualified podiatrist before planning a running program or becoming an athlete.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.