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Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome Physiotherapy: Symptoms & Treatment

Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome is a common overuse injury characterized by pain on the outer aspect of the knee, typically seen in runners and cyclists. The condition is caused by repetitive friction between the iliotibial band and the lateral femoral condyle, leading to inflammation and pain.

As with all injuries, this information is simply a guide, and it is always best to check in with a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist to have a personalized assessment and hear recommendations for what you and your body may specifically need.

The Iliotibial Band, also known as the IT band, is a thick, fibrous, tendon type tissue. It runs along the side of the upper leg from the hip to just below the knee. When it gets too tight, it can cause issues at both attachment ends. At the knee, an irritation of this structure is called Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome. At the hip, it typically causes a Hip Bursitis. Both are chronic conditions resulting from over use or improper use.

IT Band Friction Syndrome often occurs in activities where there is repetitive bending of the knee, like cycling, walking, running and hiking. In activities such as these, a friction is occurring repetitively, where the IT band crosses over your knee. A fluid-filled sac, called the bursa, normally helps the IT band move smoothly over your knee when you bend and straighten. When the IT Band is too tight or when the repetition of friction is too high, the bursa and/or the IT Band can become irritated and inflamed, causing this painful condition. Symptoms might include pain, aching, burning or tenderness on the outside of the knee, sometimes associated with swelling and clicking, popping or snapping with movement of the knee.

Iliotibial Bursitis Treatment

Iliotibial Bursitis is a common condition that affects athletes and physically active individuals. It is caused by inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac located near the outside of the knee joint. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion in the affected area. Fortunately, effective treatment is available to reduce symptoms and improve overall function. 

The first line of treatment for Iliotibial Bursitis typically involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). These medications can help reduce pain and swelling by decreasing inflammation in the affected area. Additionally, ice packs may be used to further reduce inflammation and pain.

Physiotherapy can also be used to treat Iliotibial Bursitis. Physiotherapists may prescribe specific exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee joint and promote better leg bone alignment. Strengthening exercises are important to reduce stress on the bursa and prevent future flare-ups. Additional lifestyle modifications such as avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms or wearing supportive footwear may also be recommended.

Your Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist will help you determine the nature and cause of the injury. One of the most common causes of this injury is a weakness in your gluteus medius or glut med muscle in your hip. When this muscle is not doing its job, the TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) tends to over work. The TFL is a muscle that turns into the IT Band. When it is over worked, it makes the IT Band tight. A weakness in the glut med can also cause an inward knee action to occur when putting weight into the leg. Even a tiny amount of this inward knee action or a wobble, in an attempt to keep it well aligned, can be enough to put excessive forces through the IT Band over long distances or repetition. Other potential causes may include a pelvis that is misaligned, other muscle or joint tension in surrounding areas or simply doing too much, too soon or with improper technique. Even improper technique can come back to biomechanics including strength in the gluts and alignment of the pelvis. Your Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist can assess all of this and determine the most important things to focus on. Treatment will generally include manual therapy to release the tension in the hips, thigh, TFL and IT Band. A Registered Massage Therapist can help immensely in this part of treatment. Joint mobilization or Muscle Energy Techniques may also be used to re-align the pelvis and ensure correct motion at the hip and knee. Exercises will focus on adding strength and stability in the core and gluts to ensure proper alignment down the chain from the hip, to the knee to the ankle. Rolling and stretching will likely be recommended for all tight structures.    

As with all injuries, this information is simply a guide, and it is always best to check in with a Physiotherapist or Athletic Therapist to have a personalized assessment and hear recommendations for what you and your body may specifically need.

Contact Us For Help

Inertia Physio+ offers Kanata and Stittsville exceptional Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy and Registered Massage Therapy with private treatment rooms, one on one care, a maximum of two patients per hour and treatment focused on the evidence-based practices of manual and exercise therapy. Don’t suffer any longer.  If you have pain or injury, our Kanata and Stittsville Physiotherapy, Athletic Therapy, and Registered Massage Therapy team is here to help you get back to living pain-free life and activities.  Please reach out to us at (613) 672-2200 or for an appointment today! You are also welcome to book online. We also offer direct billing on Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy services whenever your plan allows.


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