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What is Runner's Knee?

Runners knee, also known as iliotibial band friction syndrome, or IT band inflammation, is a condition of the knee that occurs from overactivity. 

The IT band runs along the outside of your thigh, starting at your hip and ending just below your knee.  The IT band can become tight if not stretched properly and it can rub against the thigh bone (femur) at the knee. 

Our body is equipped to handle a certain amount of friction (most of us don’t stretch regularly, and yet we almost never get this condition).  Its only in those who are constantly generating a lot of friction from activities like cycling or running, that overcome our bodies natural protection and cause inflammation in the IT band.  

runners knee it band syndrome

How is Runner's Knee diagnosed?

Diagnosis of this condition is made based on the reported symptoms of outer knee pain, worsened with sports, and no history of a traumatic injury. 

People will be tender along the outside of the knee, and the tenderness is worsened when the IT band is stretched.  X-ray is not needed to diagnose this condition.  MRI is not needed either, unless the pain fails to improve after a prolonged course of treatment.

runners knee it band syndrome diagnosis

How is Runner's Knee treated?

This condition is almost always successfully treated with stretching, and activity modification until the pain resolves.  Icing and anti-inflammatory medication (like motrin) is also very helpful. 

Persistent pain is typically treated with formal physical therapy, and a steroid injection at the site of inflammation. 

Its uncommon for inflammation to be refractory to these treatments, however, there are rare cases of an abnormally tight IT band that may benefit from a surgical release (loosening).   

runners knee it band syndrome treatment

What is the long term outcome?  

This condition responds well to nonoperative treatment.  The majority of cases resolve with temporary activity modification and stretching.  The rare cases that require more aggressive treatment will typically respond well.


1)  James SL. Running injuries to the knee. JAAOS 1995; 3: 309-18. full article. review.

2) Noble CA. The treatment of iliotibial band fraction syndrome. Br J Sports Med 1979; 13: 51-54. full article. 

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