What is Iliotibial Band Tendonitis?

ITB tendonitis is another common overuse injury in running sports. It occurs due to the same bio-mechanical imbalances that cause runners knee such as flat feet, knocked knees, bowed legs, torsional deformities in the tibia and femur, stiffness in the hamstrings or quadriceps, and weakness in the hips, especially the gluteals. Yes, some people can have a very tight ITB but in most cases the Ober test that we use to determine ITB stiffness is negative. It is also very difficult to stretch the ITB and some sources state that the maximum temporary elongation of the ITB is only 10% at max. The ITB is a stabilizing structure for the lateral aspect of the leg so should we be stretching it anyways? Food for thought. So then how we approach ITB issues? You need to focus on the junction points of the ITB to both the quadriceps and the hamstrings. If there is a build up of scar tissue in either of these junctions points, then the function of the ITB, especially in combo with abnormal biomechanincal forces, can cause an overuses stress syndrome.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome Treatment and Exercises 

At OrthoWell we specialize in the treatment of running injuries. We are all runners at OrthoWell–so we understand how pain that slows you down or prevents you from running can take its toll both physically AND mentally.It is important to understand the principles of proper running technique as well as the weight-bearing forces that can occur during running. You can read more about this in our book The Formula for Running Painfree.

We start the process with our unique bio-mechanical evaluation and video gait analysis to determine HOW things are connected and to determine WHY you are experiencing pain while running. Once we determine the cause of your pain, we will provide you with a detailed wellness plan that will spell out an effective course of action to get you back on the road as soon as possible.

Principles of Healing:

  1. Activity Modification (Refer to P.R.I.C.E.)
  2. Specialized Manual Therapy Techniques:  Often times there are soft tissue adhesions at the margins of one muscle group relative to another.  For example, the outside part of the quad (the VLO) may be adhered to the iliotibial band (the ITB) or the distal patella tendon may be adhered to adjacent connective tissues.  During activity, there is a degree of micro-trauma that occurs.  This micro-trauma can cause scar tissue.  Scar tissue is considered dysfunctional if it binds onto adjacent healthy tissue and prevents normal movement of that healthy tissue.  Techniques such as ARTGraston and Cupping Therapy are used to release these adhesions.
  3. Altered Biomechanical Forces:  We can fabricate custom foot orthotics in order to dissipate the shock caused by a supinated foot or the excessive torque created by an overpronating foot.  We may also utilize taping and strapping techniques or advise you in the purchase of a knee brace.
  4. Stretching: Stretching exercises are used to increase the length and elasticity of your tissues.  Your quads must work harder to straighten the knee against the resistance of stiff hamstrings.  Most people are “quadriceps dominant” and this means that your quads are working overtime.  This leads to significant stiffness in this overactive muscle.  We utilize passive and dynamic stretches as well as the neurological principles of reciprocal inhibition to hasten your recovery.  We utilize self-mobilization techniques on styrofoam rolls as part of a home exercise program to break adhesion in the quadriceps, ITB, and hamstrings.
  5. Strengthening:  Initially, we use Medical Exercise Therapy  (M.E.T.) to encourage circulatory exchange and promote healing.  M.E.T. is functional retraining of injured tissues and uses low weight and high reps. Repetition is the mother of skill when performing an M.E.T. program.  We then progress to functional resistance training and eccentrics using various weight bearing exercises.  Eccentrics are contractions in which the muscle elongates against resistance ie slowly lowering your heel off the edge of a step.  Scientific evidence supports the use of eccentrics.  Please refer to The Missing Link-Scar Tissue.  It is also very important to evaluate and address muscular imbalances at the hips and gluteals.  Chronic patellar tendon pain may not improve without adequate strengthening of the hips.  Weakness of the hips places greater demand upon the knee during weight bearing activities and sports.  Muscular imbalances in the hips are common in both the active and sedentary patient.
  6. Home Exercise Program: The rest is up to you!  Compliance with your home exercise program is paramount to a speedy recovery.