St. Francis Sports Medicine Newsletter | March 2013 
Quick Links
St. Francis
Sports Medicine

Physician Network

Newsletter Archive

 St. Francis Facebook Newsletters Newsletters Twitter

March 2013



If you love cycling, your heart and legs are no doubt toned by your efforts. But if you work primarily at a desk, your job and your hobby of choice leave your body in roughly the same position for hours at a time. For the better part of a day your legs are at a 90 degree angle from your hips, never really stretching out all the way. This can leave you with a condition called Iliotibial Band Syndrome, which typically causes pain in the hip for cyclists. (Runners also can develop Iliotibial Band Syndrome, although their pain usually is found in the knee instead of the hip.) Please continue reading to learn more:

Cyclists: Does Your Job Put You at Risk for IT Band Syndrome?



The iliotibial band (ITB) is a band of connective tissue that starts at the hipbone and ends at the outside of the top of your lower leg bone. When you move your knee up and down, as with the motion of cycling, this band slides across both the bony part of your hip as well as the bony bump on the outside of the knee. During a pedal stroke, the band slides across these bumps both on the down stroke and the upstroke. That means on a typical 2-hour ride, the ITB could cross the hip and knee more than 21,000 times! You can see how the ITB is at risk for an overuse injury.




There are several potential causes for ITB syndrome as well as several different ways to fix it. Your alignment on your bike and bike fit can be factors that contribute to developing ITB syndrome, especially if you are bowlegged or have flat feet. Talk with a bike fit specialist to ensure a proper fit and alignment to avoid these issues.

More commonly, ITB syndrome develops when some of your muscle groups are tight and others weak or fatigued. This happens especially in cyclists that sit most of the day. The ITB loses flexibility after being in the same position for extended periods of time, and while some muscle groups are toned by cycling, other muscles - especially in the hips - can actually weaken.


The first step is to work with a trained physical therapist who can develop a customized strengthening and flexibility program to help balance your muscle groups. Your therapist may also recommend an at-home massage regimen to improve blood flow, as well as tips for icing the area. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications also can be taken to reduce any pain you may be feeling.


Because the ITB is such a thick band of tissue, it takes patience and dedication to improve its flexibility and stretch it. If after several weeks or months of therapy the problem doesn't seem to improve, a Sports Medicine physician can administer a steroid injection to the area to decrease inflammation and pain. However, continued work on strength and flexibility is vital to keeping ITB syndrome at bay. The injection can reduce the pain in the short term, but if your strength, flexibility and mechanics are not improving, the pain will likely come back.


For some with chronic ITB syndrome, a surgical release procedure can be performed. This involves a surgeon making a small incision in the ITB near the hip to release the tension and essentially lengthen it. The surgeon will also debride the area of any bone spurs or deformations that could be causing further irritation.


If you're experiencing hip or knee pain and suspect the ITB, make an appointment with a Sports Medicine physician. Your doctor can refer you to a trained therapist, and be available should further treatment be needed.


If you're not experiencing pain but want to avoid it if at all possible, contact the professionals at our Sports Enhancement Program. They can do a physical assessment to determine if you have any weak spots that could eventually lead to a tight IT band, and develop a program to keep you pain free.