ITBS and PT: Relieve Pain and Improve Mobility

Two people holding knee

Understanding ITBS and How Physical Therapy Can Help


Are you someone who experiences aches and pains in your hips, knees, or other joints? If so, you may be suffering from Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), which is a common overuse injury among runners and cyclists. ITBS occurs when the iliotibial band, a thick tendon that runs down the outside of the thigh from hip to shin becomes inflamed due to repetitive motion. While this condition can be difficult to manage on your own, physical therapy can help alleviate pain and improve mobility.

In this article, we explore how physical therapy helps those with ITBS. We will look at what to expect during physical therapy sessions, list out exercises used to treat ITBS, discuss recovery times, and how physical therapy prevents re-injury.

What to Expect at Physical Therapy

When you attend physical therapy for ITBS, your therapist will assess the condition of your injury and create a personalized program that best fits your needs. Your treatment plan may include manual therapy, such as soft tissue massage, joint mobilization, or stretching; specific therapeutic exercise; strengthening exercises; and treatments like ultrasound or electrical stimulation.

Your physical therapist will also provide education to reinforce proper technique during daily activities, sports-related activities, and other exercises in order to prevent injury recurrence. Furthermore, they will provide guidance on selecting appropriate footwear and equipment to help avoid irritation or pain when exercising.

Exercises Used to Treat ITBS

There are several therapeutic and strengthening exercises used to help treat ITBS. Some of the most common exercises used include:

Here are some exercises to incorporate into your workout routine:

  • Wall Slides: Begin by standing against a wall with feet slightly wider than hip distance apart. Slide your arms up the wall while keeping your shoulder blades and back in contact with the wall. Focus on keeping your abs tight throughout and repeat 10 times.
  • Leg Swings: Stand sideways on a sturdy surface and swing one leg forward and backward in an arc motion. Do this for 10 repetitions before swapping legs.
  • Glute Bridging: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your glutes, lift your hips off the floor, and hold this position for 1-2 seconds before lowering your hips back down. Repeat this move 10 times.
  • Step Ups: Place one foot on a raised surface such as a step or block while keeping the other foot on the ground. Push up with the heel of the standing leg until both feet are on the platform. Then, step back down in a controlled manner and repeat 10 times before switching legs.

Length of Recovery

The length of recovery depends upon the severity of your ITBS condition, how well you stick to your prescribed physical therapy program, and if any additional treatments are recommended by your therapist (e.g., taping for support). Most people can expect to be free from ITBS symptoms within 4-6 weeks with regular treatment sessions and adherence to their prescribed exercises.

Preventing Re-injury

Physical therapy can help prevent reinjury by strengthening weak muscle groups, increasing flexibility, and teaching you how to properly perform activities that may be contributing to your ITBS symptoms. Your physical therapist will also provide guidance on proper stretching techniques, exercises to address any muscular imbalances in the hips or core muscles and tips for improving running form if appropriate. With these tools in hand, you’ll be more prepared to engage in sports or other activities without risking a flare-up of your ITBS symptoms.


Iliotibial band syndrome is a common overuse injury seen among athletes as well as individuals who are active recreationally. With the help of physical therapy, ITBS symptoms can be alleviated and the risk for reinjury minimized. Through the use of specific exercises to target ITBS tightness and strength deficits in surrounding muscles, as well as proper stretching techniques, physical therapists are able to help patients return to their normal activities with reduced pain and improved mobility.