All About IT Bands

by Heather

So what IS an iliotibial band?

(Besides a hard word to say?)

It’s a band that extends from the hip to the shin. In the hip region, it attaches to 3 muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and vastus lateralis. (Aka your butt & hip.) Then it stretches down the thigh, around the outside of the kneecap, and attaches to the top of the tibia. The bump on the bone it attaches to at the shin is called Gerdy’s Tubercle.

it band anatomy

What do you mean by “band”?

It starts as a muscle (called the tensor fascia latae), then turns into a thick band of fibrous tissue as it goes down the leg.

What does it do?

It’s helps the hip muscles with abduction- moving the thigh outward. It also helps stabilize the knee.

What’s IT band syndrome/IT band friction syndrome?

ITBS/ITBFS (same thing) occurs when the band becomes inflamed- usually from the band rubbing across the knubby joint on the outside of the knee, called the lateral femoral condyle or lateral femoral epicondyle.

lateral condyle


Pain or a burning sensation along the outside (lateral) part of the knee, sometimes with clicking- which is the IT band snapping over the joint. Symptoms can range anywhere from “tight” to debilitating.


Who gets it?

Anybody. ITBS is typically caused by a weakness in the surround muscles- especially the hip abductors. Runners are known for weak hips, which might be why it’s seen in runners so often.

Triathletes may be prone to ITBS because of the time spent sitting on the bike before running, which keeps the hip in a flexed position (shortens the sarcomere and increases tightness blah di blah).

Other factors than can irritate the IT band:

– Running on the same side of the road all the time (roads are slightly tilted, which makes one leg reach farther than the other)

– Different leg lengths

– Poor biomechanics (pronation)

– Overuse/increasing training too quickly



Rest (ice!), stretching, strengthening.

Massage can be a useful means of tissue mobilization, 2-3x/week up to daily- foam rollers for us broke kids!  Strengthening of the surrounding muscles- gluteus maximus, quads, etc- is also important for prevention of re-injury.

foam rolling it band

Those of you that have been through this before, anything to add?

Also for those of you that have successfully treated this- did you start wearing orthotics? Did they help?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman July 14, 2010 at 9:02 am
I don't have IT band syndrome but for my knee pain, rolling out the IT band is a huge help. It kills, but my knees feel much better after using the foam roller. I know it's not the same injury, but orthotics have really helped my knee pain. They're expensive but I think well worth it if your recovery starts to stall.
Anne Marie@New Weigh of Life July 14, 2010 at 9:03 am
Michelle July 14, 2010 at 9:27 am
Great post! Doing leg lifts, one legged squats, and deadlifts (all with no shoes!) has also really helped me! And putting one of those rubber bands around my ankles and walking sideways, focusing on not letting my knees fall in. Good luck with it! It IS manageable! (I did a post on foam rolling yesterday ;) )
Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards) July 14, 2010 at 9:37 am
Interesting. I have a lot of running "problems" and have been told it is probably this but I still am pretty uneducated about it. So interesting to read in such an informative yet concise and logical way! Thanks!
Heather July 15, 2010 at 9:57 am
Oo make sure you take care of it, whatever it is!! Better to baby it now than let it get worse down the road. (I know, I know- easier said than done!) ;)
Madeline - Greens and Jeans July 14, 2010 at 10:19 am
As I told you before, I eventually had to have surgery on my IT Band, but it still gives me occasional problems. Ice and foam rolling are the only things that do the trick for me. I'm currently training for a marathon and when I stay on top of those two things I have zero problems. No orthodics here!
Heather July 14, 2010 at 10:50 am
Grr I really don't want to wear orthotics but I'm scared skipping over that part is stupid haha. Do you ice/foam roll all the time, or just when it starts bothering you?
Matt July 14, 2010 at 10:29 am
I had it awhile back, and the key was strengthening my hips and glutes. I also used the foam roller 3 times a day and tortured myself. Haha.
Heather July 14, 2010 at 10:51 am
My foam roller has gotten jealous of me cheating on it with ice-- guess it's time to get up close & personal again ;)
Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans July 14, 2010 at 11:44 am
Thanks for that info. I read about IT band ailments all the time but never really understood what they were.
Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) July 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm
Great information! Thank you for sharing. I don't have any IT problems, but really it is always good to know how your body works and how to protect it from damage.
ActiveEggplant July 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm
I will definitely be sharing this with my husband. I luckily don't have any IT band problems but he definitely does! Thanks for passing the info along! (And glad to hear you don't have to have surgery!)
Lisa July 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm
I have a foam roller and use it religiously. It seems to help!
Kelly July 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm
Here's the post I did about my experience with ITBS. It sucks, especially knowing there is really nothing you can do except rest. I was in physical therapy for 4 months.
Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly July 14, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Okay after reading this...I definitely have more of a patella problem! Bugger....
Nichole July 14, 2010 at 1:59 pm
As a runner, I feel this is one thing we ALL know we should be better about strengthening and stretching, but we never do. This breakdown is helpful!
shelly July 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm
During my Ultra on of the fasties (Mr. Vibrams) was sitting along the trail rubbing his leg. When I questioned his need to assistance, he said it was just his IT band. He looked as if he were in amazing physcial condition! (I didn't mind chatting with him a few minutes;-) and there he was sidelined. After I finished I watch others who did appear to be such perfect physical specimens cross the finish line. A reminder that even if we "look" fit it doesn't always mean we are conditioned! Thanks for the info!
Heather July 15, 2010 at 9:58 am
That is SUCH a good lesson- can't judge a book by it's cover! ;)
Katie @ Health for the Whole Self July 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm
Thanks for this information! I'm actually experiencing some IT Band irritation for the first time, so I found this very useful! :)
Courtney W September 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm
Would you mind giving me the name of the ortho who performed the surgery? I'm at the 6 month mark of absolutly no running what so ever. I have tried EVERYTHING from pt, stetching, and 3 cortisone shots. I really need to find a good ortho on the east coast that will perform the surgery. I literally went from training to qualify for the olympic trials, to doing absolutly nothing for 6 months. I can't even pool run :( Let me know if anyone knows of a good ortho! Thank you!!
Heather September 17, 2010 at 9:17 am
I haven't had the surgery yet- I'm trying to avoid it so I can't vouch for any orthos-sorry! ;) So sorry to hear about your injury :( It sucks, doesn't it?!

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