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What Are the Different Types of Iliotibial Band Syndrome Treatment?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Iliotibial band syndrome is a thigh injury common to runners and cyclists. Treatment for this problem should begin with rest and, once workouts resume, better stretching before a workout and icing the area after a workout. If the injury persists, a doctor should be seen for continued treatment, which typically involves cortisone shots, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, and rest or sessions with a physical therapist. Iliotibial band syndrome treatment with a physical therapist will involve stretching the iliotibial band, reviewing the athlete’s workout to identify the cause of the injury and correct it, and strengthening the hip and knee muscles to minimize the potential for re-injury. In rare cases, some athletes will require surgery.

When an iliotibial band injury is first felt, the immediate treatment is to let the muscle rest by not working-out or by significantly decreasing the impact of the workout. The injury should be iced and elevated to prevent swelling and a doctor should be seen. Some doctors may prescribe cortisone shots to reduce swelling and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. Other doctors will refer patients with iliotibial band syndrome to a physical therapist in an effort either to avoid or in conjunction with cortisone shots.

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Iliotibial band syndrome treatment with a physical therapist will begin with stretching exercises, sometimes in conjunction with the application of heat, to release the tightened iliotibial band. The physical therapist will also try to determine how the injury occurred by observing the athlete to see if the running gait or any other sports motion is stressing the iliotibial band and causing injury. If any motion is found to cause damage to the iliotibial band, the physical therapist can suggest ways to correct the motion. Therapists can also suggest appropriate footwear to help prevent further injury, recommend safe workouts during the healing period, and provide at-home exercises to maintain stretching between sessions. When the injury is almost healed, the iliotibial band syndrome treatment will focus on strengthening the knee flexors and hip abductor muscles to prevent further injury when the athlete returns to a normal workout routine.

Surgery is a rare but viable iliotibial band syndrome treatment. Several surgical options exist, but the most common surgical procedure is to cut away a small part of the iliotibial band to force the release of the tissue. The cause of iliotibial band syndrome is sometimes the synovial bursa in the hip, a liquid-filled sac providing a cushion for and reducing friction between bones and tendons. When the synovial bursa swells it can pull and tighten the iliotibial band, and the iliotibial band syndrome treatment is a bursectomy to reduce the tension. In rare cases, a small portion of the outside of the knee bone can also be shaved to relieve the iliotibial band tension.

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