Iliotibial Chronic Pain: How to Treat IT Band Syndrome

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Chronic pain syndrome

IT BAND SYNDROME: Something We Don’t Truly Understand

What is IT Band?

The iliotibial (IT) band is a band of fibers that stretches from the edge of the most prominent bone of the pelvis (the iliac crest) to the tibia (shin bone). The band runs along the lateral part of the thigh. Attached to it are the gluteal muscle fibers and the muscles of the hip joint. With all these connections, it’s not farfetched to argue that the IT band is a very integral part of our muscular system and could lead to chronic pain, as it helps coordinate muscle function. Furthermore, it helps stabilize the knee, especially during such high-impact activities as running.

Ilitiotibial band syndrome, aka IT Band Syndrome, is a name coined for the chronic pain resulting from the inflammation of the band around the femur. Ordinarily, the band moves across the lateral condyle of the femur, with a sac called a bursar that allows it to smoothly move over the end of the femur. An irritated band creates friction in the area, resulting in pain in the knee due to the inflammation in the knee joint. Warning: Ignoring this chronic pain will almost certainly lead to even more inflammation over time and potentially damage as well.

Where Does Inflammation Come From?

This inflammation comes from overuse, and this logically tends to be seen in people who run a lot, typically marathon or distance runners. This is particularly true for those training incorrectly and placing their legs at an imbalance. Others can suffer this too, particularly if they have risk factors like poor flexibility or decreased strength in their quadriceps. Others can have a discrepancy in the length of their legs, or an abnormal pelvic tilt, or bowleggedness, and these can help lead to ITBS as well.

How do you deal with Chronic Pain Stemming from ITBS

Here are some ways to treat this. First off, there are the tried-and-true methods of dealing with any knee joint pain.

  • Since the problem has to do with an internal inflammation, the immediate response should be to take the weight off the joint for long periods and keep the inflamed area from being used. Rest is something that should always be part of any knee joint treatment as a result.
  • Ice is a similarly sensible response to inflammation of any sort. This will help keep the swelling down and reduce the sensitivity of the muscles as well, hopefully bringing down the level of pain.
  • Elevation is usually used in tandem with the above two, as it helps keep swelling down. Even something as simple as putting a pillow under the knee when one is seated (with the leg extended) will help.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication tends to be a good partner for any or all of the above treatments. NSAIDs that your doctor recommends are your best bet – don’t self-medicate, as some may have side effects that disagree with your constitution.

After this initial phase, some follow-up treatments can be found to be helpful as well.

  • Deep tissue massage has been identified as a necessary step for treatment before moving on to the next level. Frequent massage will be helpful – a daily one for advanced runners and two to three times a week for casual recreational runners. It is of course preferred that one get a massage from a certified therapist, but some can use foam rollers for the same purpose.
  • Stretching is often paired with the deep tissue massage, although this must be designed and done properly to prevent aggravation of the condition.

The Next Level: Strengthening

This will help the IT band become more resilient. However, this level should only be entered into when the exercises here can be done pain-free.

  • A lengthening stretch can help extend the reach of the IT band syndrome over time. Standing, cross the injured leg behind your good leg and lean on the uninjured side. Raise and stretch your arms above your head, creating a bow shape with your whole body, then lower them to touch the ankle on the inside of the bow. Hold the pose for 15 seconds, and do 10 reps. Three sets daily should be enough.
  • Side leg lifts can accomplish a lot. Lying on your side, raise the upper leg straight up, and then move it back. Make sure to maintain proper form – don’t rotate your hip backward as you move the leg back. Do all this slowly while pointing the toe down. Three sets of 10 reps for each leg will help stretch your ITB.
  • After some time you may have enough strength built up to be able to do eccentric strengthening, which will work out your hip abductors in a manner similar to actual running. Stand on one foot on a stairstep, then raise the other foot by lifting your hip. Stay upright while doing so. Lower the raised hip to full. Do ten repetitions on each side, building to three sets.

Chronic Pain Solution – Wearing Compression Garments

Wearing compression garments are believed by experts to help alleviate the pain caused by ITBS. Wearing compression sleeves during the early stages of ITBS can even prevent it to worsen. Experts and doctors advice people who experience this kind of knee pain wear such garments to promote blood circulation in the affected area and allow faster recovery from an injury.

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