Conservative treatment of iliotibial band syndrome in runners: Are we targeting the right goals?

Phys Ther Sport. 2022 Mar;54:44-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2021.12.006. Epub 2021 Dec 27.


Objective: Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is presumably caused by excessive tension in the iliotibial band (ITB) leading to compression and inflammation of tissues lying beneath it. Usually managed conservatively, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting the treatment recommendations, and high symptom recurrence rates cast doubt on their causal effectiveness. This review discusses the influence of common physiotherapeutic measures on risk factors contributing to tissue compression beneath the ITB.

Methods: The potential pathogenic factors are presented on the basis of a simple biomechanical model showing the forces acting on the lateral aspect of the knee. Existent literature on the most commonly prescribed physiotherapeutic interventions is critically discussed against the background of this model. Practical recommendations for the optimization of physiotherapy are derived.

Results: According to biomechanical considerations, ITBS may be promoted by anatomical predisposition, joint malalignments, aberrant activation of inserting muscles as well as excessive ITB stiffness. Hip abductor strengthening may correct excessive hip adduction but also increase ITB strain. Intermittent stretching interventions are unlikely to change the ITB's length or mechanical properties. Running retraining is a promising yet understudied intervention.

Conclusions: High-quality research directly testing different physiotherapeutic treatment approaches in randomized controlled trials is needed.

Keywords: Biomechanical model; Conservative treatment; Etiology; Iliotibial band syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Conservative Treatment
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome* / therapy
  • Knee Joint