Synergy Health Partners

Illiotibial Band Syndrome


Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a common overuse injury affecting the iliotibial band (IT band), a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the hip to the shin along the outside of the thigh. ITBS occurs when the IT band becomes tight or inflamed, causing pain on the outer side of the knee. This condition is frequently seen in runners, cyclists, and athletes involved in repetitive knee-bending activities.


The primary cause of ITBS is repetitive friction between the IT band and the lateral femoral epicondyle, a bony prominence on the outer part of the knee. Factors that contribute to ITBS include:

  • Overuse: Repetitive activities, such as running or cycling, without adequate rest.
  • Training Errors: Rapid increase in activity level, running on uneven surfaces, or improper footwear.
  • Biomechanical Issues: Poor running form, leg length discrepancy, weak hip muscles, or excessive pronation (inward rolling of the foot).
  • Muscle Imbalance: Tight or weak muscles in the hip, thigh, or glutes.


Symptoms of ITBS typically develop gradually and may include:

  • Lateral Knee Pain: Sharp or burning pain on the outer side of the knee, especially during or after activity.
  • Tenderness: Tenderness to touch along the IT band, particularly near the knee.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling or thickening of the IT band near the knee.
  • Pain with Movement: Pain that worsens with activities involving knee flexion and extension, such as running, climbing stairs, or cycling.
  • Snapping Sensation: A feeling of snapping or popping on the outer side of the knee.


Diagnosis of ITBS involves a comprehensive evaluation, including:

  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Assessment of symptoms, activity history, and physical examination to identify tenderness, tightness, and biomechanical issues.
  • Special Tests: Functional tests, such as the Ober’s test or Noble’s compression test, to reproduce symptoms and assess IT band tightness.
  • Imaging Studies: Although not usually necessary, imaging studies like MRI or ultrasound can rule out other potential causes of knee pain.


Treatment for ITBS focuses on reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and addressing underlying causes to prevent recurrence:

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Reducing or modifying activities that aggravate symptoms, such as running or cycling, to allow healing.
  • Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to manage pain and inflammation.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to stretch the IT band, strengthen hip and gluteal muscles, and improve flexibility and biomechanics. Common stretches include the IT band stretch, hip flexor stretch, and foam rolling.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be recommended to reduce severe inflammation and pain.
  • Orthotics and Footwear: Using custom orthotics or appropriate footwear to correct biomechanical issues and provide adequate support.


Rehabilitation is crucial for recovering from ITBS and preventing future episodes:

  • Gradual Return to Activity: Slowly increasing activity levels while monitoring for symptoms.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Focus on strengthening the hip abductors, glutes, and core muscles to improve stability and reduce stress on the IT band.
  • Flexibility Exercises: Regular stretching of the IT band, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors to maintain flexibility.


Preventing ITBS involves addressing risk factors and adopting strategies to reduce the likelihood of developing the condition:

  • Proper Training: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of activities, and avoid sudden changes in training routines.
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Incorporate adequate warm-up and cool-down exercises into your routine.
  • Stretching: Regularly stretch the IT band, hip muscles, and other lower body muscles to maintain flexibility.
  • Strength Training: Strengthen the hip abductors, glutes, and core to improve stability and biomechanics.
  • Footwear: Wear appropriate, supportive footwear that fits well and is suitable for your activity.