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iliotibial band friction syndrome (IBFS)

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The Basics & Risk Factors

In iliotibial band friction syndrome, the iliotibial band (IT band) becomes inflamed as it rubs against the hip and knee. This is a common condition in athletes, especially distance runners. In these athletes, running downhill, wearing worn out shoes, doing a lot of mileage, or a lack of rest can increase the risk of this injury. Additionally, people new to frequent running or exercise are at risk. Genetic factors like bowed legs and different leg height as well as other conditions like knee arthritis, foot pronation, and weakness in the hips, abs, or glutes can also contribute to this condition. Women are also at higher risk for this condition.


If you are experiencing hip and/or knee pain that gets worse with exercise, you may be experiencing IT band syndrome. Pain may start when you exercise and start interfering with your daily activities. You may experience an “aching and burning” sensation or clicking sensation. Complications of this syndrome include patellofemoral pain syndrome and inflammation of surrounding bones, tendons, and bursa.


IT Band syndrome is initially treated with RICE (rest, ice, elevation, compression, elevation), pain medications, physical therapy, and manual therapy (ex: using a foam roller). You can also try posture training and changing your form for exercise. If these more conservative methods are unsuccessful, steroid injections or surgery can be used.


To reduce the risk of this condition, there are a variety of changes in exercises one can make. For runners, do not run on downhill surfaces, focus on technique, and wear supportive shoes. High quality running shoes often last 300-500 miles, so changing running shoes every few months is important for frequent runners. Gradually shift training intensity, and do not make sudden changes. Slowly warmup and cool down, and stretch before running, especially the thighs and hamstrings.

If you are an injured athlete, you are probably wondering, “When can I get back to my sport?” Well, most individuals with IT Band syndrome improve after 4-8 weeks. However, make sure to keep in mind good form and injury prevention when going back to your respective sport or daily activities.

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