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The iliotibial band is uniformly, firmly attached to the femur

PainSci » bibliography » Falvey et al 2010
Tags: etiology, IT band pain, stretch, running, scientific medicine, knee, anatomy, classics, pro, leg, limbs, pain problems, overuse injury, injury, exercise, self-treatment, treatment, tendinitis, muscle

Three articles on PainSci cite Falvey 2010: 1. The Complete Guide to IT Band Syndrome2. The Unstretchables3. IT Band Stretching Does Not Work

PainSci commentary on Falvey 2010: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

Researchers studied the anatomy of the IT band on 20 cadavers and tested different IT band stretching methods. They confirmed that the IT band really is “uniformly” and “firmly” attached to the thigh bone, “from greater trochanter up to and including the lateral femoral condyle” — in other words, the full length of the femur. (They also didn’t find a bursa under the IT band in a single cadaver.)

They also carefully measured the mechanical effect of a basic IT band stretch, plus a fancier stretch, and found that even ideal IT band stretching resulted in almost no elongation of the IT band: only about 2 millimeters — an overall change in length of less than half a percent. The IT band is definitely one of the unstretchables.

They concluded with this understatement: “Our results challenge the reasoning behind a number of accepted means of treating ITBS.” One of the authors described their findings thoroughly in a (recent, 2016) blog post.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome (ITBS) is a common cause of distal lateral thigh pain in athletes. Treatment often focuses on stretching the ITB and treating local inflammation at the lateral femoral condyle (LFC). We examine the area's anatomical and biomechanical properties. Anatomical studies of the ITB of 20 embalmed cadavers. The strain generated in the ITB by three typical stretching maneuvers (Ober test; Hip flexion, adduction and external rotation, with added knee flexion and straight leg raise to 30 degrees) was measured in five unembalmed cadavers using strain gauges. Displacement of the Tensae Fasciae Latae (TFL)/ITB junction was measured on 20 subjects during isometric hip abduction. The ITB was uniformly a lateral thickening of the circumferential fascia lata, firmly attached along the linea aspera (femur) from greater trochanter up to and including the LFC. The microstrain values [median (IQR)] for the OBER [15.4(5.1-23.3)me], HIP [21.1(15.6-44.6)me] and SLR [9.4(5.1-10.7)me] showed marked disparity in the optimal inter-limb stretching protocol. HIP stretch invoked significantly (Z=2.10, P=0.036) greater strain than the SLR. *TFL/ITB junction displacement was 2.0+/-1.6 mm and mean ITB lengthening was <0.5%* (effect size=0.04). Our results challenge the reasoning behind a number of accepted means of treating ITBS. Future research must focus on stretching and lengthening the muscular component of the ITB/TFL complex.

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Specifically regarding Falvey 2010:

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:

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