How to deal with Iliotibial Band Syndrome

What is ITBS and what can you do about it?

Andy Ward, GP and cyclist @awkwardcyclist /, has advice to keep iliotibial band syndrome at bay.

What is the iliotibial band?

The iliotibial band runs down the outside of the thigh from the iliac crest (the prominent part at the top of the pelvis) to the upper part of the shin.

Working with the muscles around the hip and buttock, the band acts as a ligament and is essential to stabilise the knee. If you stand and slightly bend your knee, you can feel the band as a hard area of tissue.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Irritation of the band as it rubs over the outer part of the thigh bone can lead to iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). This overuse injury causes outer knee pain that is worsened by activity. The knee can swell and you may feel or hear a ‘pop’ when bending the knee.

Causes include weakness of the hip abductor muscles and a lack of flexibility in the band. Poor riding position, particularly a saddle that is too high and cleats that turn the foot inwards or outwards excessively, can be to blame too.

What to do about it

Stretching can help ITBS
Stretching can help ITBS

Treatment of ITBS means reducing or avoiding cycling to allow healing. Correct any errors in your bike set up and it’s worth consulting a professional to prevent the problem reoccurring.

Ice and ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and a physiotherapist can look for underlying problems and advise on rehabilitation. Hip conditioning exercises improve strength and flexibility of the muscles to help prevent ITBS, see

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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