Updated May 7, 2017
The iliotibial band, or ITB, is a long stretch of connective tissue fibers. It connects at the anterior superior iliac spine (the prominent bone of the lateral hip), extends down the lateral side of the thigh, and connects at the lateral condyle of the tibia. It assists in flexion, abduction, and internal rotation of the hip. It also helps keep the knee stabilized, especially during running.
It’s a pretty powerful part of our anatomy, as witnessed when it causes pain. A lot of people have a very tight or inflamed ITB, which causes tenderness when walking, or running. This is called Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or ITBS. It usually presents itself as a pain in the lateral knee, causing the patient to believe he has a knee injury.
ITBS is an overuse injury, resulting from activity causing the leg to be in a lateral rotation repeatedly. Causes of this include worn out shoes, running a track in the same direction too many times, a discrepancy in the leg length, an abnormal pelvic tilt, or bowlegs may cause the ITB to tighten or swell.
This can be an especially frustrating injury for runners, as the pain can become too intense and keep them from running. Rest is the recommended treatment for ITBS, so even if the pain isn’t too bad, the pathology will still keep you from lacing up your running shoes. Sports massage can help relieve tension in the fascia and surrounding muscles. Massage will also encourage blood flow to the area. This will help speed up the healing process.
Sports massage is a very powerful tool for an athlete to have through the healing process of any injury. Although injuries can put you on the sidelines and make you feel powerless, it is important to remember that you give yourself time to recover before you try to be active again.
As always, it is important to remember that massage is only a complimentary treatment. You should always follow the medical advice of your primary care physician.