Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITB Syndrome, is a soft tissue condition that commonly occurs this time of year when people take to the outdoors and suddenly increase their level and intensity of activity. The iliotibial band (commonly called IT band) is a thick band of fibrous tissue that originates from the waist and extends along the side of the thigh terminating just below the knee. Its purpose is to provide protection and support to the hip and thigh. ITB Syndrome is caused by excessive friction between this iliotibial band and your hip bone prominence, which in turn inflames the bursa (a fluid filled sac) that functions as a cushion between the two. Pain is typically felt on the side of the hip and is exacerbated by movement and often relieved by rest or inactivity. Those who are taking their exercise routine outside after spending winter months on indoor equipment or not exercising at all are at risk for developing ITB Syndrome because of the challenge of increased hip stresses such as running or biking on varying terrain.
Strengthening the hip abductor muscles along with stretching and strengthening the IT band is the key to recovery. Take adequate time off to reduce bursal inflammation and rehabilitate by performing hip abductor (side lifting) exercises. It is also important to keep your knees apart while sitting, as this dramatically reduces the IT band pressure on the bursa. Sleep on the unaffected side of your body with a thick pillow between the knees to minimize internal pressure on the bursa by the ITB. Return to your activity very gradually, otherwise, ITB Syndrome may become chronic and recurring. Over time, chronic bursitis may cause irreparable damage to the hip abductor muscles and overlying ITB. Physical therapy combined with the use of anti-inflammatory medication for 2-4 weeks may help to reduce the bursal irritation and should be considered supplemental to the measures noted above. A cortisone injection into the bursa may be required to reduce bursal inflammation in selected difficult cases. In severe cases, surgical bursectomy and repair of damaged tissues may be necessary.
As with most medical conditions, early identification and treatment are essential for a speedy recovery. Lancaster Orthopedic Group has a number of highly-skilled subspecialists who commonly treat patients with ITB Syndrome and are dedicated to getting you active again. Request an appointment using the feature on our website, or call 717-560-4200 to schedule an appointment with one of our hip specialists at a location convenient for you.