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What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Experiencing pain on the outsides of your knee? Your discomfort may be the result of Runner’s Knee in particular, Illiotibial Band Syndrome.

If you’re active, you’ll know the feeling of disappointment when you’re hit with knee pain. The discomfort can put you out of action for some time and if not managed well, it can reappear when you least expect it. Runner’s Knee is a common complaint we see at Whole Body Health and Wellness, especially amongst people who are running enthusiasts.

The term Runner’s Knee incorporates a broad range of symptoms that cause pain around the knee joint. However, there are two conditions that fall under the banner depending on the presentation of your knee pain. There are Iliotibial Band Syndrome and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.

In this article, we discuss Iliotibial Band Syndrome where the primary site of pain is localised to the outside/lateral knee. If your pain is mainly located at the front of the knee or under/below the knee cap, head here to read more about Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is a condition where the long band of connective tissue, originating from the outside of the hip, becomes excessively irritated at its insertional point. This is the point where it attaches at the side of the knee, The result of this irritation is pain and tightness that can increase in severity over time. 

What are the risk factors and causes of Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

There are a number of factors that can cause or predispose you to Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Insufficient stability through your leg, particularly either the hip or knee or inadequate muscle activation at these sites can all be involved. 

People are more likely to develop Iliotibial Band Syndrome if they perform a high level of activity involving repetitive knee flexion and extension. Quickly increasing your level of activity involving this knee action will also place you at a higher risk.

Common causative activities include a constant high level or a sudden increase in:

  • Walking/running 
  • Climbing stairs

What are the symptoms of Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

The symptoms of Iliotibial Band Syndrome typically occur gradually, increasing in severity the longer they are tolerated without a change in activity. Symptoms present more commonly during or towards the end of a long walk or run. The discomfort may be relieved upon cessation of the aggravating activity.

These symptoms may include:

  • Pain at the outside of the knee
  • Pain that runs up the outside of the thigh
  • Tightness and/or tenderness of muscles that influence knee mobility
    • Quadriceps 
    • Hip adductors 
    • Gluteals/lateral hip
  • Poor stability standing on the affected leg may also be an associated factor but not specific to Iliotibial Band Syndrome.

How is Iliotibial Band Syndrome diagnosed?

The diagnosis for Iliotibial Band Syndrome is commonly made through a physical examination with a health practitioner and assessment of your range of movement.

The symptoms you’re experiencing including where you’re feeling the discomfort will also be used to help determine whether you’re suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome.

What is the treatment for Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

The treatment of Iliotibial Band Syndrome is similar to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Initially, the aim is to target the area to bring symptomatic relief through the use of manual therapy techniques. 

Hands-on treatment from an allied health professional such as an osteopath will typically include;

  • Soft tissue therapy to the affected and surrounding associated muscles
  • Passive and assisted movement through restricted ranges
  • Addressing other areas of dysfunction (e.g. hip or ankle)

Following the initial treatment, a strategy should be put in place for long-term management of your knee pain and injury prevention.

Can you recover from Iliotibial Band Syndrome?

Rest also referred to as ‘de-loading’, is the first step in the rehabilitation of Iliotibial Band Syndrome to allow the site of pain to become pain-free, eliminating the aggravating activities.

Once adequate time has been spent to de-load the site on your injury, the management becomes focused on progressively reloading the body to the condition it back into activity, gradually increasing capacity back up to pre-injury levels.

But before you hit the running track again, there are several factors that require consideration. Working together with a health professional will help develop a plan that incorporates your individual circumstances. 

The factors to consider include:

  • Modified duration and distance of exercise 
  • Increased recovery times
  • Change of surface (e.g. grass instead of asphalt)
  • Consider footwear (e.g. is it time to update old runners)

If you’re ready to get proactive about your knee pain rather than ignoring it or trying to push past it, book a treatment with our osteopath team. Marissa Mitchell, in particular, is passionate about helping you recover from persistent injuries and get you back to your active best.

To book an appointment, click here.