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How to treat IBFS, or Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

Understanding IT (Iliotibial) Band Friction Syndrome (IBFS)

Got knee pain? One of the major causes of runner’s knee is due to a condition called Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome, or IBFS.

What is Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome?

Running along the outside of your thigh is a tough group of fibers known as the iliotibial (IT) band. The top part of the band attaches to the gluteal muscles and the lower part of the band attaches to the tibia, just below your knee. The IT band’s function is to extend, abduct, and laterally rotate the hip. In addition, the ITB contributes to lateral knee stabilization during running, but overuse of the IT band causes irritation and swelling.

If you are feeling pain on the outside part of your knee or lower thigh, you may be suffering from IBFS. The pain is often more intense when going up or down stairs, or getting out of your car.

How do runners get IT Band Friction Syndrome?

IT band inflammation occurs from training errors and abnormal biomechanics. Many runners make the mistake of only running on one side of the road. Because most roads are higher in the center and slope off to either side, the foot located on the outside of the road is always lower than the other foot. This causes the pelvis to tilt and puts stress on the IT band.

Overpronation of the foot, differences in leg length, lateral pelvic tilt, and “bowed” legs are all biomechanical abnormalities that may lead to IBFS. In addition, besides having a tight iliotibial band, tight quadriceps, hamstring, and calf muscles may also contribute to IBFS. If you are wondering if you have biomechanical problems, videotaping during exercise is a great way to see what is happening with your body.

Another common cause of IT band discomfort is due to weak hip muscles. When muscles are weak in the hip, the running form breaks down. This breakdown puts much stress on the knee tissues, resulting in irritation and swelling.

How is IT Band Friction Syndrome Treated?

Treatment for IBFS consists of the following:

  • rest

  • ice massage

  • addressing any biomechanical or training errors

  • stretching

  • strengthening of the hip musculature

When stretching the IT band, the main goal is to loosen and lengthen the fibers. Gentle stretching of the gluteal muscles will also help. You can click here and here for two specific stretches for the IT band.

Another effective way to treat IBFS is with a foam roller. Foam rollers increase range of motion and reduce pain. Foam rollers not only help with stretching the IT band, but they also help break up “knots” in the muscles. This stretch may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but this video will help you understand how to use a foam roller to relieve and stretch your IT band.

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