Your iliotibial band is a fibrous band of tissue running from the crest of your hip, down to your knee. A muscle near the crest of your hip called the tensor fascia lata, attaches to this band to help control movements of your leg. Your iliotibial band passes over the point of your hip and over another bony bump on the outside of your knee called the lateral epicondyle. When the band is too tight, it can become painfully inflamed as it repeatedly rubs over the top of either of these bony projections. Irritation at the bony bump near the knee is called iliotibial band friction syndrome.
The condition usually presents as pain on the outside of your knee that becomes worse with repetitive knee flexion or extension. This condition is the leading cause of lateral knee pain in runners, especially slower “joggers.” The pain usually develops 10-15 minutes into the workout. You may sometimes feel or hear a click during movement. Symptoms generally ease at rest. Running on slick “wintry” surfaces may aggravate the condition. Excessively worn running shoes may be a culprit.
This problem is commonly caused by weakness in your gluteal muscles. When these muscles are weak, the muscle that attaches to your iliotibial band must contract harder to stabilize your hip. Having one leg longer than another is a known aggravating factor.
Runners should minimize downhill running and avoid running on a banked surface like the crown of a road or indoor track, as well as wet or icy surfaces. Runners should reverse directions on a circular track at least each mile. Bicyclists may need to adjust seat height and avoid “toe in” pedal positions. Avoid using stair climbers or performing squats and dead lifts. Sports cream and home ice massage may provide some relief of symptoms.