Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) is one of the most common knee diseases. Especially those who are interested in sports such as running or cycling are likely to face this problem.
If you think you have this problem, first of all, you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of this disease. Probably the most critical issue and the priority for you is pain relief.
Knowing the symptoms of this disease will help you choose the right way to treat and solve your problem step by step.
What Does Iliotibial Band Do?
The iliotibial band, abbreviated as the IT band, is a powerful fibrous tissue on the thigh’s side.
The ITB starts from the ilium bone in the pelvis (the broad bones that comprise most of the pelvic structure) and attaches to the lateral part of the tibia. The job of this band is to support the lateral aspect of the thigh.
If the iliotibial band becomes stiff and dry, it can cause various problems, usually accompanied by knee and hip pain.
Now that you know the iliotibial band and its anatomy, we can go to the ITB syndrome.
Inflammation of the iliotibial band is a problem called iliotibial band syndrome. Inflammation of the iliotibial band usually occurs on the outside of the knee.
Stiffness and dryness of the iliotibial band can cause friction between the iliotibial bars in the part that passes through the knee joint. This friction causes inflammation at the end of the iliotibial round.
The final result of all these interactions is pain around the knee joint.
What are the signs and symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome?
The most common symptom of iliotibial band syndrome is pain on the side of the knee.
This pain occurs especially when repeatedly bending and straightening the knee. Other activities such as cycling, walking, running, climbing stairs, etc. are among the activities that increase the intensity of symptoms of ITB syndrome (which is the same pain in most cases).
Apart from the feeling of pain, other symptoms such as clicking or cracking sounds may also be felt in the outer part of the knee. Many times the pain felt with iliotibial band syndrome may be mistaken for pain from a pelvic bursitis problem.
Although dryness and stiffness of the ITB can also cause inflammation of the pelvic bursa, in general, in iliotibial band syndrome, the pain is mainly felt in the knee, and the pain in the hip is much less and in a secondary way.
On the other hand, sometimes the problem of ITB syndrome is confused with other problems related to the foot, especially the lateral part of the foot.
You should be careful that any type of symptom related to the lateral part of the leg does not mean a problem with iliotibial band syndrome.
Nerves that originate in the lower back, as well as superficial nerves that pass through the lower part of the knee joint, can all cause symptoms similar to those caused by iliotibial band syndrome.
One way to tell the difference between pain from iliotibial band syndrome and other conditions is to see if the pain is felt in one area or is more diffuse and nonspecific.
If the pain is felt as a spread, you should know that the problem is most likely not from the iliotibial band.
What causes ITB syndrome?
If we want to answer this question very simply and briefly, we must say anything that causes stiffness and dryness of the ITB. Yes! The answer is very general and vague.
This is precisely why they put the syndrome’s name on it, that is, the set of signs and symptoms.
Syndromes are problems and issues that are very complicated, and many factors and issues play a role in creating them.
For example, in the case of ITB syndrome, the mechanics, structure, and movement of the foot play a fundamental role, which can cause stiffness and dryness of the iliotibial band in different ways.
One of the reasons that can cause the ITB to tighten is the weakness of the lateral muscles of the pelvis.
The lateral part of the pelvis has several muscles whose job is to move and stabilize the pelvis during various activities. When the back side of the pelvic muscles is weak, the front muscles are forced to compensate for this weakness and work harder than usual.
The front muscles are called fascia latae. These muscles are connected to the ITB.
Therefore, when the lateral back muscles of the pelvis do not work, the iliotibial band is stretched due to the work of most of the front forces.
Excessive stretching and constant work of this band cause stiffness and increase tension and pressure. This situation can quickly provide the necessary conditions for its extension and wear to the bony protrusions in its path.
As we said before, this wear eventually causes inflammation and, as a result, pain. What we ultimately call ITB syndrome.
Another interaction that causes the same problem is movement problems in the legs. As we said, one end of the iliotibial band is connected to the lateral part of the leg bone. As a result, the movements and positions of the foot directly affect the function of the iliotibial band.
The iliotibial band can become strained when the foot deviates and rotates inwards. Since the iliotibial band is connected to the leg bone, the leg’s rotation and the leg bone’s inward rotation causes the ITB to stretch to the outer part of the knee bone, and from here on, the same things happen as before.
We explained. That is wear, inflammation and iliotibial band syndrome.
One of the other causes of ITB syndrome is the repetitive motions experienced by cyclists. In cycling, the foot works without experiencing any weight or tension.
This issue causes a series of muscles to work permanently, but the lateral thigh muscles are not stressed and strengthened.
Here is the imbalance of muscle strength that causes inflammation and tension of the iliotibial band.
This problem when riding a bicycle is mainly caused by not observing the correct body position and the correct way of using muscles and joint movements.
Especially when the bicycle seat is not in the correct position, it causes the iliotibial band to pass over the knee joint in the wrong conditions and constantly rub against it.
The pedals are also essential because they determine the tibia or leg bone’s position. As a result, their wrong position can hurt the iliotibial band.
How is ITB syndrome treated?
The first step in treating iliotibial band syndrome is to eliminate the inflammation that has caused it. The easiest and most convenient way to do this is to use a method like ice therapy.
For this purpose, putting some ice on the inflamed area for about 10 minutes is enough. Repeat this several times a day to reduce inflammation.
Another thing you can do is ice massage, which has the same effect as ice therapy but is slightly different.
For ice massage, you should put some ice directly on the skin and massage the area with ice for about 5 minutes.
Another way to reduce inflammation is to use anti-inflammatory drugs. As their name suggests, these drugs reduce inflammation.
Of course, the use of any medicine should be done under the supervision of a doctor and do not act on your own opinion.
You can apply anti-inflammatory creams directly on the skin and the part you want.
Iliotibial band massage
The next step after reducing the inflammation at the site is to restore the flexibility of the ITB. One of the ways to reduce the stiffness and dryness of the iliotibial band is to use a soft roll (foam roller).
To use this roll, you need to put the roll on the floor and lie on its side. That is, put the damaged part on the roll. Controlling the movement of the upper body, move the side of the thigh on the roll and go back and forth.
Do this massage with a roll for about 30 seconds. This should be done several times a day.
Standing ITB stretching
Since the iliotibial band is a fascia (tissue made of connective tissue) and not a muscle, pulling it is not the same as pulling a muscle and the feeling you get is not the same. To do this, first, stand next to a wall. Stand with the injured leg closer to the wall.
Now take the injured leg off the ground, pass it behind the healthy leg and cross it on the other side of the healthy leg. That is, in this case, the healthy leg will be closer to the wall. To maintain balance, it is better to take help from the hand that is close to the wall and lean on the wall.
When the legs are crossed, the pelvis is slightly tilted towards the wall. In this case, you feel a stretch in the outer part of the injured leg. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then return to the first position.