What is it?
IT Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS) is an overuse injury presenting as pain on the outside of the knee that increases with sporting activity. It is an irritation of a fat pad located under the IT band’s insertion site. It is commonly seen in runners, cyclists, military recruits and endurance athletes.
The Iliotibial Band or IT Band is a thick band of connective tissue that originates from two muscles, your Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) and Gluteus Maximus muscles, and inserts on the outside structures of the knee. The IT Band plays a role in stability around the hip joint.
How is it caused?
There are a couple of factors that can make a person more susceptible to this type of injury, namely: foot and shank biomechanics, weak muscles such as the hip abductors, knee flexors and extensors. Tightness of the IT Band could also be secondary to shortening of the TFL and/or Glute Max muscles, or excessive development of the outer Quadriceps (Vastus Lateralis), placing an increased tensile load on the IT Band itself causing a burning sensation felt at the knee.
One of the most common problems is weak hip abductors, mainly our Gluteus Medius muscle. The action of hip abduction is the movement of your leg away from the centreline of your body. This action along with the group of muscles is mainly responsible for knee stabilization during activity (running, jumping etc…). Often the Glute Med is weak and the body decides to compensate by using another muscle that is usually the helper in knee stability. This is usually when the TFL muscle decides to kick in. The TFL isn’t as strong of a muscle as the Glute Med so it uses the IT Band to help stabilize the knee. When it tightens, a burning sensation felt on the outside of the knee.
How is it managed?
At home, it can be managed with ice and some anti-inflammatories in addition to stretching the TFL and foam rolling the TFL, Glutes and Quadriceps. You can foam roller the IT Band however, it is a thick connective tissue that doesn’t have a lot of extensibility compared to the muscles it is attached to. Should it not resolve, come in for some physiotherapy to help determine what the root cause of the problem is!