The Dreaded IT Band Friction Syndrome

Last week I was about to post an article about iliotibial band friction syndrome and some common ways to help decrease knee pain, but I then saw one of my colleagues post a video called, 3 IT Band Myths & Common Treatment Mistakes.  The author of the video, Paul Ingraham, made some valid points, notably; that the IT band is quite a tough structure and stretching it wasn’t going to change it very much.  

Let’s take a step back and explain what the IT band is.  IT band stands for iliotibial band. It is a large band of thick connective tissue that runs from the TFL (tensor fascia lata) muscle, which is attached to your hip, and spreads to the lateral portion of your knee. Most often, runners or cyclists experience pain on the outside of their knee.

Ingraham’s 3 common myths and common treatment mistakes were:

Myth #1
IT band syndrome is a hip and thigh problem

Myth #2
Steamrolling your IT band will help

Myth #3
Stretching will help

What I did find interesting was myth #2, that “steamrolling your IT band will help.”  Even though Ingraham reported that “steamrolling” your IT band won’t help, I find clinically that rolling out your IT band is effective in decreasing the tension felt by the athlete.  Whether there is actual microscopic change to the band or not, from an athlete’s perspective, they feel less tension around their knee after rolling... perhaps it’s due to the intense pain the IT band had to endure that the knee actually felt a bit better! But with all jokes aside, it is important for professionals to implement evidence-based treatment into practice.  Unfortunately, the evidence for treatment of iliotibial band friction syndrome, like many syndromes and conditions are limited. Further research is needed to progress our knowledge to provide adequate treatment.  

Because there is a lot “internet junk” out there, I do encourage you to check out Ingraham’s video and website. It does provide some valuable information about iliotibial band friction syndrome, but unfortunately, you do need your credit card handy for the full tutorial.  

IT band friction syndrome is no different than any other condition. It is patient specific and there is no one magic exercise or stretch that is going to prevent or treat this problem.  But in light of things, a well-trained healthcare professional can help you determine muscle imbalances that may have predisposed you to this problem in the first place.  

For all those participating in the Vancouver Sun Run or the BMO Marathon, good luck and take care!
Jessie Wong, Physiotherapist from the Physio Room

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