Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS) can cause knee pain as it results in the abnormal friction or rubbing at the side of your knee where the band crosses. When the IT band is rubbed it can cause both inflammation and knee pain. In some cases, you may also feel the pain around the thigh and/or hip.
What is Iliotibial band friction syndrome – IT Band?
You may not be familiar with the IT band but it’s a thick tissue which runs along the outside of the thigh between the knee and hip. Where the Iliotibial band crosses the knee it also passes over the thigh bone (femur) and also attaches to the front of your tibia (shin bone). Underneath the IT band is a bursa which helps it smoothly glide when you straighten and bend the knee.
Most people who suffer from ITBFS complain of a burning sensation on the outside of the knee and will feel pain on the outer part of the hip or thigh. The burning sensation can be more noticeable when running and cycling since those exercises require repetitive straightening and bending of the knee. ITBFS can also be caused when tight muscles around the knee and hip cause friction between the hip or knee bones and the IT band.
Other causes of the affliction could be weak thigh and hip muscles as well as improper foot position when running. The pain can often go away by itself or with rest and on other occasions you may be able to relieve the pain by visiting a licensed physiotherapist. This is usually recommended if the pain continues and interferes in your normal activities and routine.
Physiotherapy for Iliotibial band friction syndrome
At Fit Physiotherapy our team of physiotherapists will be able to help find the cause of your pain after thoroughly evaluating your condition. The therapist may test things such as your muscle flexibility and strength in and around the the legs, thighs and hips. Your range of motion at the ankles, knees and hips may also be tested. In addition, there’s a specific ITBFS test known as the Noble Compression Test. This is done by pressing the IT band on the outside of the knee while you flex and extend it.
Our therapists will test the flexibility of the IT band and may also test you to make sure the pain isn’t due to an injured knee cartilage or ligament. A gait evaluation may also be performed and we’ll also assess the position of your feet to make sure there’s no overpronation. Once you’ve been assessed we’ll develop a personal physical therapy treatment program for your unique condition.
The first few days of knee or hip pain caused by the IT band is known as the acute phase. It’s recommended that you avoid any activity that causes pain at this stage. You can ice the area for up to 20 minutes a time a few times per day at during this stage to help reduce any swelling. After a week of icing and resting the affected area you can typically begin gentle motion and stretch the IT band and surrounding muscles.
In general, your therapist will prescribe hip and knee strengthening exercises for a few weeks before you begin to exercise more aggressively. The therapist will then monitor your condition to make sure the IT band can tolerate it before you return to strenuous activities such as playing sports. Your abdominal muscles could all be strengthened to ensure they’re providing adequate support for the IT band. If there is a problem with your foot pronation you may be advised to wear inserts or orthotics in your shoes to help correct it.
Sufferers of ITBFS often find it painful to engage in physical activity and this can include walking. If you begin physiotherapy early and follow the recommendations of your therapist you should be able to relieve the pain and safely return to your normal activities in several weeks. We’ll make sure your treatment program is geared specifically for you and will use whatever proven therapy techniques are necessary to have you back to normal as soon as possible.