Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

IT band plungering

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Get posts in your inbox:
Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of PainScience.com: a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

If it’s stuck, suck it? In this poor quality video we see a physical therapist using a cute little toilet plunger — for a hobbit loo? — to “suck” the iliotibial band off the leg. To achieve an IT band “release”, of course! (Arg, that blasted word!)

I think this is silly. Sure, it’s easy to see the suck-up-the-stuck-tissue “logic” of it, but it’s at odds with well-known IT band anatomy (the IT band is firmly anchored to the femur for most of it’s length), and it’s at odds with the nature of IT band syndrome (it doesn’t hurt because of “adherence of the IT band to the tissues beneath it”).

Even if the IT band did get stuck to underlying tissues, I’m not so sure that baby plunger would be helpful. It might lift some skin! The mechanics of it would work something like this experiment: (1) put a cookie sheet on the floor, (2) cover it with Saran Wrap, and then (3) try to pick up the cookie sheet with a toilet plunger, through the plastic. Good luck with that. (And you know what? It probably doesn’t even matter if you move that cookie sheet.)

This treatment idea is mostly just good for a chuckle. I’m sure it’s harmless to everything but your wallet … but also pointless. It boils down to a weird form of massage.

My book about iliotibial band syndrome has been updated with this vital information. (Sometimes book updates are high priority science. And sometimes they just fall in my lap and make me snicker and I can’t resist ‘em.)