The Iliotibial band (ITB) is an extremely strong band of fascia (a form of Connective tissue) that runs from the top of the pelvis, down the outside of the leg, before eventually inserting onto the tibia, fibula, and patella. Excessive tension or stress within the ITB causes it to rub over the femur just as it crosses the knee. The abnormal forces, by way of friction and tension results in localized burning, aching pain and tenderness on the outside of the knee as it is bent or straightened out. Without proper care, it takes an average of four weeks before the severity of the symptoms make your workouts an insurmountable task.
Most distance runners, triathletes and cyclists will develop ITB syndrome sometime during their training. A number of mechanical and physiological factors will predispose the athletes to ITB, such as, abnormal pelvic, lumbar or lower limb function, weak or overtly tight pelvic/lower limb muscle groups. However, from a Chinese medicine and acupuncture standpoint digestive issues are related to ITB syndrome.
A portion of the gallbladder meridian runs down the lateral thigh and lower leg. Gallbladder, in Chinese medicine, secretes the pure and potent bile fluids required to digest and metabolize fats and oils, and its energy provides muscular strength and vitality. It works with the lymphatic system to clear toxic byproducts of metabolism from the muscular system, thereby eliminating muscular aches and fatigue. It is paired with the Liver meridian which governs the muscles and tendons of the body. By combining the best of western and eastern medical knowledge, we can see that with increased training time for the ultra-endurance events the body shunts blood away from digestive processes for an extensive time period. As this happens repeatedly the digestive system slows significantly in providing nutrients for the muscles to use for energy and waste management. There is a build up of lactate ions and other energy byproducts that will linger in the system. Ultimately the gallbladder meridian will start to develop issues, which include ITB syndrome as a symptom.
For my athletes that develop ITB syndrome we will look at their digestion and start to treat that along with the mechanical issues eto afford a quicker recovery. I will use acupuncture for the pain and treatment of the affected meridians. I will also use cold laser therapy to treat local pain along the band and other physiotherapy modalities. Joint manipulative therapy will be performed if there are any noted joint restrictions. This multi-modality approach allows to us to treat the person and not the injury. When only the injury is treated it takes too long for recovery and the person is not healed. The underlying issue is still there and thus the root is still able to grow a weed.
Jerry Lee Bailey II, BAA, DC, CAc, FIAMA
Chiropractic Physician, Acupuncturist and Functional Nutrition