Illiotibial Band Syndrome: The Runner’s Nemesis

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is one of the leading causes of knee pain in runners and cyclists. It is often referred to as a Friction Syndrome because of one theory that it is caused by the repetitive friction of the iliotibial band (ITB) sliding over the lateral femoral condyle. During flexion-extension ranges of motion at the knee, the ITB moves anteriorly as the knee extends and posteriorly as the knee flexes, which impinges the posterior edge of the ITB. This repetitive friction can lead to irritation and inflammation of the ITB and the bFriction Syndrome ITBursa.  Another theory has compression playing more of a role than friction and through that compression, structures around the knee become irritated.  In many cases, ITBS is associated with tight musculature at the hip, which can increase pressure or tension on the ITB.

The ITB is a thickening of the fascia that is formed by the confluence of fascia of the hip flexors, extensors and abductors. It extends from the muscles of the hip down to the knee and attaches at 3 sites: the lateral border of the patella, the lateral retinaculum and the Gerdy’s tuberlce of the tibia.   The ITB functions with the hip musculature and plays an important role in stabilizing the pelvis and knee during the support phase of the gait cycle.

The initial goal of treatment should be to alleviate inflammation at the site of irritation by using ice massage, ultrasound, or NSAIDS.  An application of a kinesiotape such as Spider Tech can also be useful at this stage.  Patient education and activity modification are crucial to successful treatment. Exacerbating activities must be avoided and the athlete’s training schedule must be modified.  Stretching exercises can be started once the acute inflammation subsides. This is also when we want to address the myofascial restrictions in the tissues.

Active Release Technique can be an effective treatment for Iliotibial Band Syndrome. ART restores optimal texture, motion, and function to the soft tissues by removing adhesions between adjacent structures. Treatment often focuses on restoring normal muscle motion between the ITB, quads and lateral knee structures. Treatment also focuses on the lateral hip musculature; TFL, gluteus muscles and rectus femoris.

Once the myofascial restrictions have been addressed and range of motion is restored, strengthening muscle weaknesses becomes a very important part of the recovery process. Exercises should emphasize eccentric muscle control, multi-planar movements and functional integrated movement patterns. A return to running program needs to be carried out gradually, with small increases in running mileage and frequency and can be initiated once patients can perform strengthening exercises without pain.

Predisposing factors for ITBS can include training errors, such as increased mileage or intensity too quickly, road camber (always running on same side of road) and excessive down hill running.  Other contributing factors include altered biomechanics such as low/high arches, over pronation, genu varum, tibial torsion, pre-existing ITB tightness and muscle imbalances. Research studies have demonstrated that many people with ITBS have significant weakness in the hip abductors of the affected limb and increased adductor adduction moments because the hip abductors are unable to eccentrically control that movement.

The primary initial complaint in patients with ITBS is diffuse pain over the lateral aspect of the knee. With time and continued activity, the achiness caClinical Presentationn progress into sharp, localized pain above or below the lateral knee joint. It can also cause pain along the length of the ITB, or at the lateral hip. Pain worsens with continued activity and can be especially aggravated by running downhill, climbing stairs, or after sitting for long periods of time.  Typically the pain begins after the completion of a run or after several minutes of exercise. As the ITB becomes more irritated the symptoms begin earlier and can even occur at rest. In some cases, patients will present with swelling at the lateral knee or report a snapping/popping sensation at the lateral knee or hip.

Physical examination will often reveal tenderness on palpation of the lateral knee approximately 2cm above the joint line. Tenderness is often worse when the knee is flexed at 30, which is the angle that the ITB is at maximal stress. Palpation of the hip musculature (TFL, gluteus medius, vastus lateralis) may reveal trigger points that cause referred pain to the lateral aspect of the knee.

Taking Care of Running Injuries between Visits with TP Performance Therapy

Taking Care of Running Injuries between Visits with TP Performance Therapy

Nothing seems to bring to light, the interconnectedness of different areas of the body like the activity of running.  It is a complex, multi-joint, repetitive Image of muscle locations on lower limbactivity and if there is a breakdown anywhere along the chain, we’ll start the compensation process for as long as we can until we just can’t compensate our way around it any more, and the pain sets in.  The more common of these pains are plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, and Iliotibial band syndromes.  In our practice in Squamish, BC, there is such an active population that we see a tonne of these types of injuries.

Surprising as it can be, the majority of pains felt at one location are caused by dysfunction at a different location.  As a Chiropractors and providers of Active Release Techniques,  a lot of our job is educating patients as to WHY they are hurting, and not just trying to relieve the hurt.  The more tools that a patient has to take care of themselves, the easier it makes our job and the more satisfied and confident patients become, knowing that there are solutions available to them.

The nature of the majority of these injuries is not an overt trauma to the area, but more typically a result of decreased blood flow and oxygen deprivation in tight muscles, this can cause your body to produce tough, dense scar tissue in the affected area. This scar tissue binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely which can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain. In our practice, we will use ART (Active Release Techniques), to locate and eliminate the adhesions, and find it to be a very effective way of dealing with these types of problems.  One issue that we run into however, is that patients can’t always get in for treatment and the stretching or strengthening advice we provide only has limited effectiveness.

We have also recommended the use of a foam roller in the past for helping break up scar tissue and keep muscles loose, but again we find that because a foam roller is so generic in nature, it ends up being a fairly generic treatment.

We have been using the Trigger Point Performance Foot and Lower Leg Kit with patients over the past 6 months and have found it to be a great solution for patients to maintain lower limb function between treatments.

What impresses me about the Trigger Point Performance Therapy products, is that they are well thought out, specifically designed tools and as a result are much more functional and effective than a foam cylinder could ever dream of being.  The biggest complaint about the products that I’ll hear from patients is that the kits are “too expensive”… They definitely do cost more than a foam roller, but once they have used the tools and realize that it will quickly pay for itself in the number of fewer clinic visits that they will require, they are usually convinced.  Every kit comes with written instructions as well as a very well put together DVD which takes the user through exactly how and WHY to use the different tools for different areas of the body.  Please pay heed to the numerous warnings in the DVD that tell you to take it slow, and increase the pressure gradually, because as anyone who has done any type of rolling in the past knows…it’s a special kind of torture.

So far I have only been using the TP Footballer, TP Baller Block, and TP Massage Ball, for the lower leg.  There are other products available, including the TP Quadballer and TP Grid.  I hope to try out and review these other products soon.  They are available through or in the Lower Mainland at any of the Fitness Town locations