Did you know that engaging in activities that involve repetitive flexing and extending of knees can cause iliotibial band syndrome? Well, studies show that walking long distances, cycling and athletics, among others are some of the contributing factors. As a nurse, physical therapist, fitness coach or yoga instructor, you will always encounter clients with IT band injuries. According to experts, incorporating massage therapy with conventional treatment is one of the best approaches to manage IT band syndrome.
What Is IT Band Syndrome?
The IT band is a thick connective tissue that originates from the pelvic bone and extends laterally to the shinbone. The fibrous band works with hip muscles to stabilize lateral movements of the hip and knee. However, overworking the connective tissue with activities that require repetitive knee flexion and extension causes IT band syndrome. The overuse movements create friction between the band and the lateral femoral epicondyle, thus, causing discomfort when exercising, or moving. Signs and symptoms of IT band syndrome include:
- Patient reports feeling an irritating pain along the lateral side of the hip and the femoral epicondyle during motion.
- There is notable inflammation and swelling on the outer part of the knee.
- Slight pain is felt at the beginning of an exercise and increases with intensity as the activity progresses.
- Pain in the gluteal region caused by overstretching gluteus muscles.
- Experiencing a popping pain that results from the rubbing of IT band against your knee during movement.
- Tenderness on the lateral femoral and tibia epicondyles upon palpation
Diagnosing the IT Band Syndrome
Despite causing knee pain, iliotibial band syndrome is not the only cause of knee discomfort. Before making your diagnosis, ensure you take a history of the client’s complaints and their daily activities. Usually, the iliotibial band syndrome affects people who engage in activities that put a constant strain on the knees. A client who reports being a runner, bicyclist, hiker or athlete might be a candidate of iliotibial band syndrome.
After taking the history, the next essential step is to conduct a comprehensive physical assessment to determine the precise effected location. You can use some tests such as Noble’s test to assess for pain in the lateral femoral condyle. Additionally, using an Ober’s test will assist you in examining the IT band for tightness. A comprehensive physical examination will give you an insight on areas that need massage therapy; to determine the appropriate techniques for myofascial release.
Managing IT Band Contracture Syndrome with Massage Therapy
As a professional health worker, ensure that massage therapy is in your to-do interventions for iliotibial band syndrome. Offering a massage along with traditional treatment has proved to be effective in enhancing recovery from the IT band syndrome. Below are the benefits of massaging your patients:
- Relieve Lateral Leg Pain
In most cases, it’s a nagging pain resulting from IT band overuse that forces patients to seek professional intervention. Performing myofascial release massage on the lateral side of the effected leg relaxes the fibrous band and muscles from tension — thus alleviating the pain.
- Promote Healing
Nowadays, unique massage techniques aim to not only relieve pain but also to promote tissue healing. Addressing trigger points and hypertonicities of the leg muscles enhances blood circulation. Improved tissue perfusion allows delivery of oxygen and nutrients to enhance the healing of the injured tissues.
- Restore flexibility and Improve Mobility
A patient who is suffering from IT band syndrome often complains of inability to move comfortably. Massage therapy resolves muscle stiffness and tenderness, therefore refining motion and flexibility. Therefore, after several sessions, your patient will be able to resume daily activities with ease.
- Improve Posture
When the pain is intense, most people adopt bad postures in response to the discomfort. As a massage therapist, you are equipped with unique skills to resolve tension and inflammation of the effected regions. The relaxation and flexibility of the leg enable the patients to assume their normal and healthy posture.
- Alleviate Stress and Anxiety
Besides enhancing physical fitness, massage treatment helps to relieve the body from stress. Reduced anxiety in patients with IT band syndrome promotes healing and improves their emotional well-being.
What is the prognosis of Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
Typically, if you utilize the right treatment modalities, the prognosis of IT band friction syndrome is excellent. For optimum results, it is crucial to use a multifaceted approach when treating patients. Whether you are a nurse, physical therapist, or a fitness coach, integrating massage therapy with conventional treatment will yield a positive outcome.
Ultimately, adding massage therapy to your healthcare profession not only improves healthcare delivery to your clients but also makes you indispensable. Want to learn more about managing IT band syndrome with massage therapy? Contact our Seattle massage therapy schools today to discuss your massage career and educational options in Seattle, Tacoma, or Bellingham.
I addition you can also contact our partner massage therapy school; Seattle Clinical Massage School for information about a massage therapy career in Seattle, Washington.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a medical condition where one or more discs in the back lose strength. Despite the name, degenerative disc disease isn’t technically a disease but a progressive condition that worsens over time due to wear and tear, or injury.
The discs in your back are situated in between the vertebrae of the spine and act as cushions and shock absorbers. They help you stand up straight and move through everyday motions, such as bending over or twisting around. As people age, DDD can worsen and cause mild to extreme pain that can interfere with your everyday activities.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
Some of the most common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include pain that:
- Primarily affects the lower back
- Could extend to legs and buttocks
- Stretches from neck to arms
- Can be worse from sitting
- Worsens after bending or twisting
- Comes and goes in a few days or extends to several months
People with DDD might exhibit less pain after walking or exercise. Additionally, DDD can cause weakened leg muscles and numbness in your arms or legs.
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease
DDD is primarily caused by natural wear and tear of spinal discs. Over time, discs tend to dry out and lose their support and function, leading to pain and other symptoms. DDD can start developing in your 30s or 40s and progressively worsen as you age. However, the condition can also be caused by overuse from sports or repetitive activities, or injury. Once a disc is damaged, it can’t repair itself.
Age is the major risk factor for degenerative disc disease. The discs in between the vertebrae often shrink down and lose their cushiony support as people age. Almost every adult above the age of 60 has some form of disc degeneration. However, not all cases cause pain.
Long-term repetitive activities that place a lot of pressure on certain discs can also increase your risk. Other risk factors include car accidents, overweight or obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Diagnosis of DDD
An MRI can help detect degenerative disc disease. Your doctor may recommend this type of imaging test based on a physical exam or an investigation into your symptoms and health history. Imaging tests can reveal damaged discs and help rule out other triggers of pain. When you receive a diagnosis of DDD, it does not mean that you’re disabled or headed for a downward spiral of spinal degeneration. In fact, DDD is often a part of the natural aging process that we all go through at some point in life. And the good news is that you can mitigate the associated pain through a variety of treatment solutions, including massage therapy.
Massage Therapy Treatment for DDD
From a Massage Therapy point of view, the approach in treating DDD is to strike a balance between reducing muscle tension and enhancing traction (decompressing the targeted vertebral segments). Finding a “green zone” of treatment is critical since the spasms that occur through the neck or low back happen because the body is trying to protect that area. By applying slow, repetitive, methodical massage between soft tissue and joint mobilization (spinal decompression), massage therapy can help relieve pain and allow you to move easier and execute strengthening exercises efficiently.
Massage therapy generally helps in these three ways:
- Increasing Blood Flow and Circulation: Proper blood circulation ensures that critical nutrients flow back fully to the strained muscles and tissues. This makes the muscles/tissues stronger, helping relieve the strain coming from the degenerating discs.
- Decreasing Tension: The muscles can become tense as they struggle to compensate for the weakening discs. When these muscles are manipulated during the massage, they become relaxed, which improves the range of motion and flexibility.
- Increasing the “feel good” chemical: Massage therapy releases Endorphins, a mood-enhancing chemical that is released in the brain. This “feel good” chemical helps in reducing pain and enhancing recovery.
Without treatment or therapy, DDD can gradually progress and cause more adverse symptoms. While surgery is a treatment option, other less invasive treatments such as massage therapy have been found to be just as helpful yet less costly. A clinical study involving a 66-year-old female patient with cervical degenerative disc disease in her lateral left facet joint recorded impressive outcomes. The patient was experiencing symptoms of severe neck pain accompanied by restricted cervical range of motion. She also exhibited radicular left shoulder and arm pain. The objective of the study was to determine the effect of therapeutic massage on the patient’s symptoms and impairments of cervical DDD.
After multiple treatment sessions, the patient’s symptoms had decreased and cervical ROM had moderately improved. There was also a reduction in reported pain and an improvement in functional daily activities. This is an indication that massage therapy is a favorable treatment intervention for DDD symptoms.
Massage can help improve the symptoms associated with Degenerative Disc Disease for a prolonged duration of time as long as you continue to follow the maintenance schedule that your Massage Therapist lays out. Massage therapy typically reduces muscle strain, improves flexibility, and mitigates pain. However, you can achieve the best results by working in conjunction with other health care professionals. Keep open communication between your doctor and your massage therapist to ensure the best treatment.