In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Extremity Division Leader Mark Gallant debunks common myths surrounding the IT band. Mark emphasizes the importance of exercise in enhancing function. He mentions two types of exercises: local tissue exercises and functional activities. Local tissue exercises are designed to respect the irritability and stress levels of the tissues. These exercises may include variations of hinge movements, knee bends, or squats that are unloaded enough for the individual to handle. They provide a healthy stimulus to the tissues and help build strength and capacity.
Functional activities, such as step downs, squats, and deadlifts, are also incorporated into the treatment plan. Mark explains that coaching these functional movements is crucial in helping the individual return to their normal activities. By gradually increasing the training volume and appropriately dosing the force, they can both manage symptoms and provide a beneficial stimulus to the tissues.
Take a listen or check out the episode transcription below.
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Alright, what is up PT on ice crew? Hope you’re doing well on this Tuesday morning. I’m Dr. Mark Gallant coming at you here on clinical Tuesday. Lead faculty of the extremity management division alongside Lindsey Huey and Eric Chaconis. Want to talk to you today about IT band syndrome and some common myths. Before we get into that, we’ve got a few upcoming courses. So I’ll be in Amarillo, Texas, September 9th and 10th. So a lot of tickets flying off the shelves for that one. So make sure if you’re in Texas and want to check us out on for extremity management, that you get some seats to that. And then the following weekend, I’ll be in Cincinnati, Ohio at Onward Cincinnati. So love to see you out there for that one as well. Again, for any of the ice courses, if you have not already signed up for the ice course that you want for the fall of 2023, the courses that are on the website are the only courses that are going to be added for this year. So make sure make sure you hop on there and sign up as soon as you can.
02:38 COMMON ITB BANDS
So IT band myth. So IT band syndrome is one of those syndromes that we had a lot of ideas that came out of research from the 70s, 60s, even early 80s that for whatever reason or another have stood the test of time and stayed in our profession for over 50 years. And that’s influenced a lot of the way that we treat a lot of the common manual therapy we see, the interventions we see. And we’ve got a lot better research that’s come out in the last 10, 15 years to direct us how to treat these these IT band patients. And so we want to look at that. This is not to bash the researchers that have come before us. So Renee and Ober and those folks that did a lot of the research in the 1970s. We owe everything we know now to them. And I sincerely hope in five years, six years, a lot of you are looking back at these podcasts and go, man, like all all the stuff that Mark was saying or his colleagues at ICE, it seems kind of silly now. That’s what we want to happen. We want you all to take everything we’re we’re looking at now and make it way better over the next five or six years. So so thanks to Ober. Thanks for Renee. And now we can stand on their shoulders and really move forward. So what were some of the common myths that came out of that research in the 70s? Well, the first one is that the IT band, the iliotibial band track starts at the proximal hip with the TFL and glute. And then it has a very simple unidimensional insertion point at Gertie’s tubercle. So one single insertional point for that big, massive iliotibial band structure. What we now know is that the the iliotibial band insertion point is actually quite more complex than that. It attaches at the tibia. It attaches at the lateral femoral condyle. It attaches to the patella. And not only does it attach at multiple sites, these attachments are firm. So so that that distal IT band is not really moving very much at all. The second myth is that the IT band is tight. That that iliotibial band is going to get tight and it’s going to limit that person’s hip adduction. What we now know is that the structures that are most commonly going to limit someone’s adduction are the glute medius, the glute men and the joint capsule. So the IT band is rarely going to be the primary driver of limited adduction. And the TFL, the glute max, the structures that it attaches to are also not typically going to be the primary driver of adduction. What we then see is the third big myth that that iliotibial band syndrome is a pain dominant syndrome being caused by a friction of that iliotibial band rubbing along the lateral structures of the knee because it has a unit dimensional insertion point. Because that thing is tight that it’s starting to rub. And that makes a lot of sense going after those those old ideas. Right. If you’ve got a certain kind of problem, you can go to the doctor’s office and you can get a prescription. If you’ve got a single insertion point and there’s extra force causing that that to be tight and it starts to rub, certainly we can see tissues being irritated because we now know that it’s got a complex insertion that’s really firm, that the IT band is rarely tight. What we now know is that the typical pain presentation is often being caused by repeated force due to an increase in volume change in that person’s activity and the lack of frontal plane control. So the most common thing you’re going to see is someone really picks up their volume of running. They’ve got they’ve got poor control over the hip, knee and ankle. And that knee starts to ping in when you get that at a really, really high volume, the opportunity for the lateral structures structures of the knee to become sensitized gets significantly increased. Another one we see it in is as folks who do a lot of downhill running, they increase their trail running their downhill running by by high volume. So you’re getting a ton more load into those those structures and you’re getting that lack of frontal plane control and those tissues are going to get irritated. So what are we going to do about that tissue irritation? So so like any other pathology that we’re going to treat, our first step is to calm things down. We want to put out that fire initially.
05:30 CALMING DOWN TISSUE IRRITATION
So with IT band syndrome, the primary thing that you’re going to do to put out their fire is you’re going to you’re going to get control of their volume. All right, Chris, you were running 10 miles a day, five days a week. We’re going to cut that down to five miles a day for three days and see if we can calm that tissue down. So it’s rarely full on abstinence. Where we like to start is can we find that sweet spot where your symptoms are starting to calm down and we’re still keeping you involved in your functional activity? So whether it’s running Olympic lifting, whatever the activity may be, can we control the amount of load, the volume of force that’s going into that system and get those symptoms to calm down? In addition, using using our manual therapy techniques to modulate pain. So you’re dry needling, your myofascial decompression, your soft tissue mobilization. You’re going to base these off irritability. If that person’s high on their irritability, then we’re often going to needle massage and cup tissues that are a little more distal to where the pain is at that lateral knee. So looking a lot at the glutes, maybe lower down on the ankle. And then as symptoms calm down, we can get at the tissues more more close to that knee, that tibialis anterior, the distal vastus lateralis, the short head of the biceps and really try to modulate people’s our patient symptoms and and get those tissues a little healthier. From there at the same time, so we’re not waiting until the pain modulation comes down, we’re going to start doing some therapeutic exercise to get those tissues to tolerate load better. So we’ve got to strike that balance of we’re trying to lower their symptoms and we want some healthy, good force to go into their tissues. So oftentimes that can be open chain exercises. So they’re going to have typically a little less load on the tissue because you’re not dealing with so many structures. You’re not dealing with ground reaction forces. So keeping that that low to improve the overall tissue health and then progressing them into more closed chain exercises that are going to stimulate those tissues in a little bit closer environment to their typical activity. So things like hip hikes, closed chain clamshells, your side steps, all those sort of things. Then we want to get into some functional exercise. Can we get compound movements that are going to be close to the activity that that person is typically doing with those compound movements for IT band? We’re looking at things like step downs, single leg squats, all of those type of activities. Kickstand deadlifts are another good one.
08:25 PT 1.0 & MOVING FORWARD
Now we’re PT 1.0. A thing that we did in our profession that we would like to move on from now is we said, OK, we’re going to do our local tissue stuff. And when you get good enough at the local tissue stuff, then we’re going to graduate you into doing these functional components. What we what we know now is we want to get all of this involved as early as possible so that we can influence the nervous system better and make that person less fearful of doing these these more challenging activities. So you’re going to hit your local tissue exercises, respecting their irritability, respecting the amount of stress that that tissue can handle. And you’re going to start doing variations of functional activities that they can tolerate again with their pain level, their irritability and their stress. So finding a hinge variation that’s unloaded enough that the person can perform, finding a knee bend variation or squat variation, single leg squat variation that’s unloaded enough that that individual can handle. So that’s two components, local tissue with three components, pain modulation with our manual therapy, local tissue exercises to get some healthy stimulus into those tissues. Looking at a functional activity, squats, deadlifts, all those sort of things. All these are happening relatively at the same time. And then the fourth piece is looking at the activity that caused the problem. Was it running? Can we get them on the treadmill and do do a run a run gate analysis? Shout out to Jason, Megan and Rachel in the in the injured runner division. Can we look at their their Olympic lifting? Are they getting IT band syndrome because they started doing split jerks all the time and that position of their knees a little bit irritating? You know, the whole CMFA crew, can you really look at and coach well through a video analysis what that person is doing on their their Olympic lifting and start moving them forward there? So we’re going to modulate the pain by controlling their volume. We’re going to modulate the pain by using some manual therapy to influence the central nervous system to calm those tissues down. We’re going to start exercising, getting good healthy stimulus while respecting irritability into the tissues through open chain and closed chain local tissue exercises. We’re going to get a big functional movement, step down, squat, deadlift to start building robustness and capacity overall. And we’re going to coach them on the functional activity that may have been the aggravating, whether that’s running, downhill running or or their Olympic weightlifting. Now, what this does that’s really cool is it positions you as a wildly unique provider to this individual. We are the only profession or one of few professions that are able to control that entire experience for that person. We’ve got the education where we can control their training volume. We can say, hey, look, I looked at your programming. Looks like you had a huge jump here and all of a sudden you’re doing like three times the volume. Let’s see if we can cut that back a bit. You can poke them with some needles. You can do massage. You can do myofascial decompression. You can do joint manipulation to calm that lateral knee down. You’re the expert in local tissue exercise. You know, if I put this amount of force into this tissue and dose it appropriately, we can both keep symptoms calm down and give a good healthy stimulus to that tissue. You got to know how to coach the step down, the squat, the deadlift to get them back to their functional movements. And we’ve got to start getting better at being able to do those run gate analysis, video analysis for the big lifts, the Olympic lift, the squat, all those that we can really coach those well. And that will uniquely put you in a position to take that person through a whole plan of care and get them back to the things they love. That will really position you as the best possible guide. So again, to recap, IT band syndrome, we no longer believe that this is a friction based component because we now know that the IT band is firmly anchored to that lateral knee at the tibia, the femur and the patella. We know it’s more of a volume increase and a lack of frontal plane control that’s really irritating the system. If we can get that frontal plane control by getting a better step down, a better squat, better functional movement, use our local exercise to get better healthy stimulus into that lateral knee so those tissues can tolerate increased stress and improving our efficiency with the movements that we want to do, our running, our Olympic lifting, those sort of movements. Hope this helps. Love to discuss this more in the chat bar. Can’t wait to see you all on the road in a few weeks. Hope you have a great rest of your Tuesday.
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