IT Band Syndrome, or “runner’s knee”, plagues runners, triathletes & cyclists alike. It is so common that many athletes believe it is something that just has to be endured, however Acupuncture has many ways to approach this issue with outstanding results.
IT Band Syndrome can occur for multiple reasons. One is that the TFL muscle, Tensor Fasciae Latae, gets overly tight or even spasms. This pulls on the IT Band (tendon) shortening it & causing irritation as it rubs over the lateral epicondyle of the femur (bony protrusion on the lower lateral end of the femur). This chronic rubbing causes irritation & damage to the tendon compounding the problem. The tendon itself then gets inundated with waste byproducts & inflammatory fluids & has difficulty dispersing them, as tendons notoriously have terrible blood flow innately.
As this progresses, it causes increasing pain as the muscle tightness increases & the inflammation worsens. The domino effect is then in full swing as the athlete (often unconsciously) changes their running gate or the cyclist’s hip & leg alignment in their pedal stroke. Now the problem escalates at it is being transferred along to the lumbar, QL, hamstrings, hip flexors, etc.
Treating the root cause has the most dynamic effect to bring about actual healing & to avoid any migrating issues. This is often done in Acupuncture by utilizing needling, electrical stimulation & cupping.
Needling is done at points along the hips to effect not only the TFL muscle, but also the Gluteus Medius, Periformis, & other muscles that will be involved in the imbalance. Needling is also done at the point of inflammation along side the tendon above the outer knee. The needles are placed on both sides of tendon (bookending it) & electrical stimulation is applied. This electrical current increases the local circulation to the tendon facilitating genuine healing, while simultaneously decreasing inflammation.
Cupping is a process where a vacuum is created in a cup & applied to the skin. This suction draws the skin, facia, blood, & tissue up superficially. This helps to draw trapped toxins, lactic acid, & inflammatory fluids out of the tissue where the lymphatics can drain it away, thereby improving the overall circulation & function of the muscles & tendons. The cups can also be slid along the muscle or tendon sheath, in this case along the IT band from knee to hip. This causes myofascial release, stimulates the stretch reflex, & reduces inflammation.
It is also of prime importance for cyclists rehabbing from this to check for proper body mechanics, bike fitting, foot/cleat positioning, & muscular imbalances for best results.
Christina Roy is a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Boulder, Colorado. One of her specialties is treating sports injuries and performance enhancement. She has worked with multiple cycling & triathlon groups in Boulder to help with recovery treatments after races, as well as injury prevention & performance enhancement. She is also a cyclist & dreams to some day do the RAAM (Race Across America) solo! To learn more about the benefits of acupuncture to cyclists, visit her site at Premier Acupuncture Boulder
Christina Roy MSOM, L.Ac.
Premier Acupuncture of Boulder