ITB Syndrome – What Is It & What’s the Best Treatment?

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Ilio-Tibial Band (ITB) is a thick band of connective tissue covering the outside leg muscles from the hip to the knee.  This tissue is often inflamed and irritated in athletes who do repetitive knee bend and stretch movements - like runners and cyclists.

Assessment

Immediate RICE (rest, ice) treatment is needed to reduce the pain and inflammation, and massage from a trained physio is also very helpful at this stage.  Then the physio will assess the severity of the problem and find the root cause.  If you’ve had more than one bout of ITB pain, only a physiotherapist can give the appropriate treatment and help you avoid further attacks.

Causes

These usually fall into one of these categories:

  1. Foot abnormalities worsened by the wrong type of shoe
  2. Muscle weakness in the gluteus medius – hip muscle  
  3. Tightening of the IT Band   

Foot abnormalities

Excessive inward rolling of the foot during running, called over-pronation, causes the shin bone to rotate inwards and place extra strain on the IT Band.  Physio treatment can include the prescription of a special insole to correct this.  The physio will also tell you exactly which type of corrective sports footwear you need to avoid future problems.

Hip muscle weakness

ITB Syndrome is also caused by muscular weakness in the hip and core stability muscles.  Research studies on long distance runners concluded that weak gluteus medius muscles were a frequent cause of ITB problems in these athletes.

The gluteus medius is one of the three gluteus muscles. It’s a broad, thick, radiating muscle, on the outer surface of the pelvis. The only way to eliminate the symptoms of ITB and prevent constant recurrences is to follow a course of strengthening exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist. 

IT Band tightness

As the IT Band is not a muscle, but a very thick piece of tissue connected to the knee joint, you can’t stretch it.  However, the physio will prescribe stretching exercises to lengthen the muscles in your hips and make the soft tissue more mobile. 

In combination with a course of therapeutic massage to the lower part of the IT Band, you’ll eventually be cured of those annoying bouts of pain altogether.  

The important point to remember is that you shouldn’t ignore the problem – the sooner you consult a physio – the sooner you’ll be rid of ITB Syndrome for good!

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