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?