ITBand Syndrome: Part 1. What is ITBS?

With running becoming an increasingly popular sport, and marathon finishers on the rise, it isn’t a surprise that running related injuries are also being seen with an increase in frequency. This week, we will be taking a look at Iliotibial Band (ITBand) Syndrome (also sometimes referred to as an ITBand Contracture), what causes it, the types of manual massage therapies that can be done to alleviate it, and what you can do at home to help decrease the associated pain and get back to running!

Runners are definitely an interesting breed, and, like most athletes, are not apt to want to stay our of their sport for too long when they’ve incurred an injury. So, what can they do when they hear from their doctor that they have a repetitive strain injury? First step: educate yourself.

What is ITBS?

“Iliotibial band contracture is a contracture or thickening of the iliotibial band.” (Thomson et al., 1991).

A side view of the right leg shows the underlying ITBand and connected muscles.
A side view of the right leg shows the underlying ITBand and connected muscles.

The ITBand connects to the TFL muscle, located in the front of the hip, the Gluteus Maximus muscle in the back of the hip, and then stretches down to attach to the lateral tibia, just below the outside of the knee. The function of the ITBand is to assist in stabilizing and supporting both the hip and knee. When the ITBand experiences extended strenuous activity, the performance of both the hip and knee are hindered caused by excessive adhesion build up and muscle tightness. This can also cause the vastus lateralus (outer quad muscle in the leg) to decrease in function because it is experiencing constant pressure on top of it.

Runners who may see an even greater increase in the risk of developing ITBS are those who have a job at which they sit for an extended period of time, or those who have not developed proper stretching or foam rolling habits.

Symptoms of ITBand Syndrome

The main symptoms associated with ITBand Syndrome come on gradually and tend to become worse with exercises and other forms of activity. Pain with ITBS will usually be felt along the outside of the thigh as well as outside and just below the knee. A generalized inflammation along the ITBand can be felt when touched. Sometimes, when touching the outside of the leg you will be able to feel the adhesions after they have formed. There is also a noticeable decrease in the range of motion of both the hip and knee. If left unattended for a prolonged period, some people who have ITBS may develop a busitis of the bursa at the greater trochanter.

If these symptoms are something that you have been experiencing, you may want to consult with a doctor or therapist.

Next post: ITBS Part 2: Treating With Massage

Corinne D. Bracko, CMT, LMT, CKTP has been practicing clinical massage therapy since 2004. She currently owns Dochas Clinical Massage Therapy and works out of her office in Columbia, Missouri. When not working as a therapist, she trains in both long distance running and two forms of martial arts: Songahm Taekwondo and Krav Maga. It is her goal to have massage become a staple of people’s health care plan to encourage a method of illness prevention and non-surgical solutions.

Please feel free to send any questions you may have to CDBracko.LCMT@gmail.com

Works Cited

Thomson, Ann, Alison Skinner, and Joan Piercy. 1991. Tidy’s Physiotherapy, 12th edition, Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.

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