Iliotibial band syndrome – Definition, Causes, Treatment

This health issue often referred to as IT band syndrome by many, causes pain to the outside part of the knee. It is a condition mostly associated with athletcs, especially athletes committed to running long distances. Also, those who are newly exercising their selves can suffer from this condition.

The thigh bone (femur), shinbone (tibia), and the knee cap (patella) are all knee joints. The Iliotibial is a very strong and thick tissue band that runs down the outside thigh. It goes from the hip bones to the shinbone.

During a bending and extension process of the leg, the Iliotibial band shifts. When there is a repetition of these specific actions, it irritates the nearby tissues, which causes pain. Although anyone can get this condition, it is mostly associated with sports enthusiasts and those competing in sporting activities.


Researchers are yet to unravel the exact cause of the Iliotibial band syndrome. However, a few research studies have suggested that ITBS pain may result from friction due to Iliotibial movement over the lower outer edge of the bone. When this happens, the tendons, bones, and fluid-filled sacs in the area known as bursae may be inflamed. As a result, there may be an abnormal compression of the tissue under it, which leads to pain. Regardless of what specifically causes this problem, it is worth knowing that continuous knee bending and extension can be responsible for the ITBS pain.


While this condition may have different symptoms, the most notable is the pain on the outside of the knee, just at the upper part of the joint. The pain isn’t necessarily consistent, and things like warming up before a big run can hide the pain. In some cases, pain may worsen so much that little exercises become too painful to do. A few symptoms to be alert for include;

  • A click, pop, or snap-feeling on the knee outside
  • Pain up and down the leg
  • Outside of the knee turning red and warm
  • Aching, tenderness, or burning on the outside part of the knee

Noticing these symptoms requires you to see a physical therapist especially.


Recovering from this condition doesn’t take long, especially if you adhere to every instruction given by your physical therapist. To find out more about the conditions treated at Reach Physio Brighton click here. Additionally, adequate rest will help to heal the pain quickly. With strict adherence to rules by a physiotherapist, you should be healed in six weeks. A few steps to take towards recovery include:

  • Placing ice on the affected part for ten to fifteen minutes by wrapping it in a towel
  • Avoiding exercise or activities that may trigger the pain
  • Use over-the-counter drugs

Physical therapists, on the other hand, can help by

  • Giving the best warm-up and cool down tips
  • Helping you schedule your training or exercise
  • Prescribe exercise for stretching and strengthening both leg muscles and IT band


There are a few ways to prevent IT band syndrome. Some of these ways are

  • Running with a shorter stride
  • Regular replacement of shoes
  • Loosening up IT band by using a foam roller
  • Ensure to have recovered fully before engaging in workouts or exercise
  • Stretch properly, warm up, and cool down whenever you need to
  • Run-on smooth and flat surfaces

Seeing a physiotherapist

While the above-recommended treatment methods may be effective, it is important to know that seeing a physiotherapist may be a solution if there is no improvement in the pain. Our physical therapists will consider other treatment options. In some cases, Reach physiotherapists will identify that you may have other problems with your knee different from the ones discussed above.  If that is the case, then a new diagnosis must be made on you.


* Contact Reach Physiotherapy for a list of references used for this blog content.