Stretching and Releasing of Iliotibial Band Complex in Patients with Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Narrative Review

J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2023 Jun 4;8(2):74. doi: 10.3390/jfmk8020074.


Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is one of the most common overuse syndromes causing knee pain; it is especially prevalent in runners and also common in cyclists, rowers, and field athletes, with occasional cases occurring in non-athletes too. ITBS symptoms can negatively affect not only knee function, but also mental and physical aspects of health-related quality of life. Although various conservative treatment options have been investigated and discussed, there is still no consensus on a standard of care for ITBS. Moreover, the literature on the etiology and risk factors of ITBS, which could help in selecting appropriate treatment methods, is conflicting and inconclusive. The role of individual treatment modalities such as stretching and releasing techniques has not been extensively studied and remains unclear. In this article, we will critically review the available evidence for the benefits of ITB stretching and "release" methods in the treatment of ITBS. In addition to the direct evidence (clinical studies examining the effects of ITB stretching and other methods that purportedly stretch or "release" the ITB), we present several additional lines of reasoning that discuss the rationale for ITB stretching/releasing in terms of the etiology of ITBS, the mechanical properties and behavior of the ITB, and the risk factors for ITBS development. We conclude that the current literature provides some evidence for the inclusion of stretching or other "release" methods in the early rehabilitation of ITBS. Long-term interventions typically include ITB stretching; however, it remains unclear to what extent stretching within a multimodal treatment actually contributes to resolving the symptoms. At the same time, there is no direct evidence to suggest that stretching and "release" methods have any negative effects.

Keywords: foam rolling; iliotibial band; iliotibial band syndrome; knee pain; running injuries; stretching.

Publication types

  • Review