Iliotibial band syndrome is common injury that occurs in individuals who are very physically active. This is a stress injury that occurs as a result of inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial tendon that rubs against the femoral condyle. Damage to this tendon will cause increased tension while running, biking, or intensive activities.
As the knee undergoes repetitive flexion and extension, inflammation and irritation occurs because of a lack of flexibility of the iliotibial band itself. In fact, this is a condition that is persistent and causes pain on the side of the knee. According to an article written by Razib Khaund of the Brown University School of Medicine, “treatment for iliotibial band syndrome requires activity modification, massage and stretching and strengthening the affected limb.” (Khaund)
Treating Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Fortunately, there are certain stretches and exercises that target the iliotibial band to prevent inflammation, pain and swelling. Since this condition generally flares up during exercise or intense muscular contractions, there are certain exercises and stretches that can strengthen this tendon. When the tendon becomes stronger it also becomes more elastic that will prevent sharp pains or problems functioning.
The best type of stretches for this condition originate from the hip so as to flex, or strengthen, the iliotibial band. Supportive movements and stretches that stretch the outer leg are also ideal to prevent problems near the knee during exercise. In combination with stretches, certain exercises can help to strengthen muscles in the leg, knee, and hip.
Stretches to Manage Symptoms
Stretching is a scientifically proven way to prevent and decrease the risk of injury during movement and exercise. It enables muscles to move and function properly through their full range of motion. Accordingly, certain types of stretches that directly target the iliotibial band to help manage symptoms.
Basic ITB Stretch: Cross left leg behind right leg and lean forwards to the left side. When holding this pose for thirty seconds, the ITB is directly affected and stretched.
Glute Stretch: Lay on your back and lay one leg flat on the ground while pulling the other close to your chest. This stretches the ITB directly.
Side Lying Stretch: Lay on a bed or table on the left side with the bottom leg bent. Slowly move top leg so that it drops behind to stretch.
Standing Stretch: Place the affected leg behind the other one and keep the foot on the floor while pushing hips to the opposite side. This will stretch the side of the thigh and leg.
Tensor Fascia Latae Stretch: Lay one leg down flat while crossing your leg to your upper thigh and lean forward slightly. This targets the tendon itself.
Exercises to Prevent Symptoms
Muscles are tissue that support the skeletal system and become damaged or deteriorated over time. As stated in an article published by Corey Beals in the Journal of Sports Medicine, “Conservative management consisting of a combination of rest (2–6 weeks), stretching, pain management, and modification of running habits produced a 44% complete cure rate, with return to sport at 8 weeks and a 91.7% cure rate with return to sport at 6 months after injury.” (Beals) To relieve inflammation and prevent damage of muscles, specific exercises can target problem areas, such as the hip abductor muscles, tensor fasciae latae and gluteus medius muscles.
The iliotibial band connects with these muscles and should therefore be exercised regularly to prevent and manage symptoms with exercises such as:
Clam Shell: Lay on your side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle to your torso area. Using your glutes, slowly open and close your legs in that position.
Hip Hike: Stand on one leg with your pelvic area neutral and then drop one side lower than the other and use your hip muscles to get back into position.
Hip Thrust: Lay on your back with all weight on your back and keep your feet on the ground while your thrust your torso up.
Pistol Squat: Stand on one leg with your opposite knee raised in front of you and slowly lower yourself while stretching your other leg in front of you.
Side Hip Bridge: Position yourself on your side with your feet propped on a surface one to two feet from the ground and push your torso upwards with your feet.
Side Leg Raise: Lay on your side with both legs straight and raise one leg 45 degrees several times in a row.
Side Shuffle: Get into a squat-like position with your knees slightly bend and take ten steps to the side and ten steps backwards.
When both exercises and stretches are completed on a daily basis, the symptoms of the condition decrease. To treat mild pain after exercising and stretching, you can manually roll out the tendon to prevent further pain and symptoms. Additionally, ice or an icy hot patch can be applied to the tendon while it is sore, tender, or swollen.
As muscles get stronger, the inflammation decreases and the pain subsides as muscles support the iliotibial band. Although this condition may require attention after increased exercise and activity, it can be treated with the proper prevention plan. For this reason, individuals can continue to perform their favorite sports and activities when these tips and tricks are used to treat a damaged iliotibial band.
Beals, Corey. “A Review of Treatments for Iliotibial Band Syndrome in the Athletic Population.” A Review of Treatments for Iliotibial Band Syndrome in the Athletic Population. Journal of Sports Medicine, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
Razib Khaund. “Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Common Source of Knee Pain.” Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Common Source of Knee Pain – American Family Physician. American Family Physician, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.