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Treating Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS) with Seattle Sports Massage

by Thrive on 07 August 2012 at 15:12

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Knee pain is a common complaint among runners and other athletes. One of the biggest problems with treating that pain is determining its root cause. Knee pain can be caused by joint problems, ligament injuries, muscle pulls and a variety of other ailments. Making it even more difficult to treat knee pain is the fact that many times knee is only a symptom of an injury to another part of the body. One such injury is iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS).

What is ITBFS?

sports-massage-for-itbfs-painIliotibial band friction syndrome is caused when the ligament extending from the outside of the pelvic bone to the outside of the tibia becomes tight. In many cases, the ligament (the iliotibial band) begins to rub on the femur. The rubbing can cause pain and leave athletes and others unable to participate in the activities they enjoy.

While ITBFS is most commonly found in athletes, specifically long-distance runners, it can be caused by acute injuries, repetitive movements or be the result of over-exercise. The wide range of events that can lead to ITBFS puts nearly everyone at risk for this type of injury at some point in their lives.

Flexing the knee, as happens when walking or running, exacerbates pain when iliotibial band injuries are present. Other common symptoms of ITBFS include:




  • Cracking or popping sounds in the joints
  • Swelling
  • One leg becomes shorter than the other
  • Bowing of the legs
  • Weakness in the hip abductors
  • Overpronation when walking, jogging or running
  • Limited movement of the connective tissue in the injured area

It should be pointed out that while iliotibial band friction syndrome typically causes pain located at or around the knee, the root cause of the injury is often due to tightness or myofascial trigger points located in the hip and upper leg.

Treatment of ITBFS

Extreme cases of iliotibial band friction syndrome may require surgery, but most research indicates that conservative treatments should explored first. One of the most popular, and effective, treatments for the injury is massage therapy. Even in cases where surgery is needed, it is often recommended that patients spend at least 3 months in massage therapy or other conservative treatments prior to surgery.

Common massage therapies used to treat iliotibial band injuries include Medical, Swedish and Sports massage therapies. These massage therapies work by helping to reduce the tightness of the ligament, which reduces pain and increases flexibility, strength and range of motion.

Each of the massage techniques used to treat iliotibial band friction syndrome focuses on deep tissue massage techniques that help rid muscles and ligaments of adhesions (often scar tissue) by focusing on trigger points to relieve muscle tension and tightness, lengthen muscles and improve range of motion.

Other treatments a licensed sports massage therapist may recommend and/or implement include:

  • Seattle-massage-for-itbfs-painStretching exercises – Stretching helps improve range of motion, increase circulation and restore proper hip and leg function.
  • Soft Tissue Mobilization – These techniques can include things such as Active Release Technique, Graston Technique or other tissue mobilization therapies. There therapies work by helping to remove excess scar tissue often caused by micro-traumas related to overuse injuries.
  • Correction of biomechanics – Proper running and walking form help to ward off future instances of injury.
  • Muscle Strengthening Exercises – Strengthening of the muscles and making sure there are no imbalances helps promote proper posture and biomechanics, two of the possible causes of ITBFS.

An Intimate Look at ITBFS Treatment

In a case study from New York massage therapist Allen Galante, a football player experiencing knee pain sought relief with massage therapy. The pain was so great that the player had started removing himself from practices early so he could avoid the pain in his knee.

Prior to visiting the massage therapist, the player had attempted to treat the injury through cortisone injections and physical therapy. Neither treatment was successful in relieving his pain. Ultimately, the player was diagnosed with ITBFS.

During the initial visit, the player rated his pain as a 9 on a 10-point scale. The therapist and patient developed an initial course of treatment that consisted of daily massage until the pain went away. After just five days of massage therapy, the patient reported that his pain was now just a 2 on the 10-point scale.

Following the initial five days of treatment, the player continued to receive treatments three times a week for two weeks, and then twice a week for another month. By the time the therapy sessions had concluded, the player was able to complete practices and was virtually pain free.

Treat Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome in Seattle

Whether you are a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior or a couch potato, injuries to your iliotibial band can leave you in incredible pain. The Seattle massage therapists at Thrive Healing Massage can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment and let us get you back to your normal life.

Categories: Massage Articles, sports-massage


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