Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Solution to Get You Back in the Game

Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Solution to Get You Back in the Game

Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, is a condition that can cause pain on the outside of your knee. It is often caused by overuse and can make it difficult to run or walk. If you are suffering from ITBS, don’t worry – relief is possible! In this blog post, we will discuss what iliotibial band syndrome is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from reoccurring.

First what exactly is iliotibial band syndrome? Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a condition characterised as pain or tenderness along the outer aspect of the knee. It usually does not occur due to a trauma but can be triggered by long distance running or a sudden increase in physical activity. Therefore, ITBS is common among long-distance runners and sprint athletes but can also affect individuals with sedentary lifestyles that are getting back into exercise. 

The iliotibial band is a thick band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee. It works together with the hip muscles like the gluteus maximus and medius to stabilize the knee and help absorb shock when the leg hits the ground. However, the iliotibial band is dense like a rope, and not as elastic as the muscles around it, so overuse can cause it to become inflamed and irritated. ITBS is typically treated with rest, ice, and stretching exercises to manage the pain. If the symptoms persist after 1-2 weeks, a physiotherapist can help you to determine cause of the issue and treat the pain.

The main Iliotibial band syndrome symptom is a sharp pain on the outside of the knee joint, particularly with walking, running or going down steps. The pain may radiate down the shin or up towards the buttocks. You may also feel weaker in that leg, and in some cases, get swelling in the knee. You may hear a popping or snapping sound when the knee is moved as the tight band flicks over the bony attachment at the knee. The most effective treatment and prevention strategy for ITBS is physiotherapy.

Why physiotherapy is an effective iliotibial band syndrome treatment

You can manage the pain with rest, ice, and stretching at home, but that may not be enough. Physiotherapy will look past the pain in the knee and find the root cause to the ITBS, which involves treating the knee, hip, and even the low back, ankles, and feet. They may use massage, manual therapy, tissue release, and exercise to reduce pain and improve function.

Physiotherapy can help relieve pain and improve function courtesy of Honsberger Physio+ (Read the caption)

Manual therapy

Posture and movement go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you have improper posture, your running, or exercises are going to put extra stress on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Because of this, you do not need to be a marathon runner to get ITBS; having bad posture throughout the day is setting yourself up for pain. Physiotherapists use manual treatment techniques to help correct side-to-side postural differences, improve joint mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles. They also address functional limitations in your back and trunk to take the extra stress off your iliotibial band.

Soft tissue release

The Iliotibial band is not a muscle, but it attaches to many that are important for running and other exercises. When iliotibial band syndrome occurs, physiotherapists look at the muscles around the hip and knee to reduce the pain. When one group of muscles is tight, it pulls on the iliotibial band more and does not allow it to move as freely. This also means that the group of muscles on the other end of the band are being stretched and are too weak to pull the band back into a correct position (imagine a one-sided game of tug-o-war). Physiotherapists use soft tissue release on the tight muscles so they can relax to a more comfortable position and allow the iliotibial band to move more freely.

3 exercises to protect your knees courtesy of Honsberger Physio+ (Read the caption)

What can I do to prevent iliotibial band syndrome?

  • Correct your posture regularly. Ensure you are sitting in a proper position at work, and regularly take standing breaks or move around. We highly recommend using The Posture Arch as a great tool to enhance posture!
  • Maintain strength and flexibility in the muscles around the hip and knee, particularly the quadriceps and hip muscles.
  • Warm up properly before exercise and cool down afterward. 
  • Avoid sudden increases in intensity or duration of activity. Gradually increase your workout intensity and duration over time.
  • Wear proper footwear that offers support for the feet, ankles, and knees. If your shoes to not provide proper support there are over the counter and custom orthotic options available that can be prescribed by a Physiotherapist if need be.
  • Listen to your body and rest if you experience any pain or discomfort in the knee or hip area. Pushing through pain is not always the smart option.

If you do experience symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome, seek treatment from a healthcare professional to prevent the condition from worsening. Early intervention can help to reduce pain and improve recovery time.

Overall, iliotibial band syndrome can be a painful and frustrating condition. However, with proper treatment and prevention strategies, it is possible to alleviate symptoms and prevent further injury. Remember to listen to your body, warm up before exercise, and seek professional help if needed. By following these steps, you can get back in the game!

Perfect your running courtesy of Honsberger Physio+ (Read the caption)


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is possible for iliotibial band syndrome to improve on its own with rest and self-care, but it is important to seek treatment from a healthcare professional to prevent the condition from worsening.

Stretching can be an effective treatment for iliotibial band syndrome. It can help to increase flexibility and prevent irritation of the iliotibial band. In some cases, stretching may not be enough, so look for the advice of a healthcare professional or physical therapist for other options.

The length of time needed for the iliotibial band to heal will vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s response to treatment. In general, symptoms may improve in a few weeks with proper treatment, but it may take several months for complete healing. It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and properly rest and care for the iliotibial band to facilitate healing.

About Andrew Luo

Andrew Luo graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo and a Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Toronto. Andrew has a strong interest in orthopaedics, exercises prescription, and manual therapy.

Andrew is passionate in sport medicine, high performance, field care; and/or any opportunity to use manual treatment skills/ teach exercise techniques.

Andrew has played Ultimate Frisbee at a varsity and club level, and occasionally works with Toronto’s AUDL team, Toronto Rush. In his free time, he enjoys playing football, volleyball, tennis, and finding new shows to binge!

He treats in Honsberger Physio+ Markham location and this is his direct booking link.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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