Iliotibial band syndrome: an examination of the evidence behind a number of treatment options

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Aug;20(4):580-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00968.x. Epub 2009 Aug 23.


Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome (ITBS) is a common cause of distal lateral thigh pain in athletes. Treatment often focuses on stretching the ITB and treating local inflammation at the lateral femoral condyle (LFC). We examine the area's anatomical and biomechanical properties. Anatomical studies of the ITB of 20 embalmed cadavers. The strain generated in the ITB by three typical stretching maneuvers (Ober test; Hip flexion, adduction and external rotation, with added knee flexion and straight leg raise to 30 degrees ) was measured in five unembalmed cadavers using strain gauges. Displacement of the Tensae Fasciae Latae (TFL)/ITB junction was measured on 20 subjects during isometric hip abduction. The ITB was uniformly a lateral thickening of the circumferential fascia lata, firmly attached along the linea aspera (femur) from greater trochanter up to and including the LFC. The microstrain values [median (IQR)] for the OBER [15.4(5.1-23.3)me], HIP [21.1(15.6-44.6)me] and SLR [9.4(5.1-10.7)me] showed marked disparity in the optimal inter-limb stretching protocol. HIP stretch invoked significantly (Z=2.10, P=0.036) greater strain than the SLR. TFL/ITB junction displacement was 2.0+/-1.6 mm and mean ITB lengthening was <0.5% (effect size=0.04). Our results challenge the reasoning behind a number of accepted means of treating ITBS. Future research must focus on stretching and lengthening the muscular component of the ITB/TFL complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cadaver
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Fascia Lata / anatomy & histology
  • Fascia Lata / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Management*
  • Syndrome