What is IT, and how can I take care of IT?

Special to The Times

I think I have “IT band” syndrome. Can you tell me exactly what it is and how to cure this painful problem?

The iliotibial, or IT, band is the tissue that runs up the outside of the thigh, connecting to two muscles at the hip (the gluteus maximus and the tensor fascia latae) and to the tibia (or shinbone) below the outside of the knee. It provides stability to the knee while standing, walking and running.

Dr. Tom Crawford, former director of coaching for the U.S. Olympic Committee, says that the syndrome usually occurs in people who run on uneven terrain, hills or banked surfaces. Other contributing factors could be a sudden change in activity or increasing one’s training too quickly. The pain typically is felt on the outer side of the knee or on the lateral thigh or hip and can range from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing pain.

Physical therapists often recommend stretching and massage to increase blood flow and make the tissue more pliable; some use ultrasound and electric stimulation. To minimize inflammation, ice can be applied to the painful area for 10 minutes at a time.



Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to She cannot respond to every query.