Iliotibial band syndrome is a common runner’s leg pain condition. Like many other possible psychosomatic pain syndromes, this disorder can be caused by an actual physical process which sometimes creates dreadful symptoms. However, many patients who are diagnosed with the condition do not actually suffer from ITBS, but are instead suffering from psychosomatic pain which has chosen to mimic the symptoms of the actual syndrome.
Runners and athletes are often the target of these activity-restricting mindbody syndromes. In some cases, the symptoms may be related to athletic activity itself, such as performance anxiety or the stress of competition. In other instances, the source of underlying emotional causation may be unrelated to the expression and might deal with facets of life never considered to be related to leg pain in the least.
Let’s look at mindbody variants of ITBS and contrast them against structural varieties of the condition.
What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
The physical form of ITBS is a condition which causes knee discomfort and sometimes entire leg pain. Symptoms are also possible in the hip joint or below the knee, as well. The miserable expression is likely to be worsened by high impact activity, such as running, with acute bursts of agony coming as the foot touches the ground each time.
The psychosomatic form of the syndrome is identical in symptomology, but caused by oxygen deprivation of the tissues rather than any physical defect. Irregularities in the iliotibial band are not unusual and are rarely painful. However, an anatomical irregularity in the ITB gives the psychoemotional form of pain increased medical credibility and provides a perfect scapegoat on which to justifiably blame the symptoms.
Sources of Iliotibial Leg Pain Syndrome
The main causes of symptoms are running and other vigorous high impact sports and activities. Sometimes the activity actually causes the physical pain condition to appear, but other times, the activity simply acts as a convincing trigger for psychosomatic suffering to begin. This is a typical part of the conditioning process endured by patients with a wide range of mindbody health issues.
Pregnancy can also cause ITBS, as can the aging process.
Some patients with a history of psychosomatic conditions develop this expression as a back pain substitute symptom. Psychosomatic pain in the iliotibial band is most often caused by ischemia of the involved soft tissues.
In a few instances actual knee joint pain is misdiagnosed as ITBS. This is not likely to occur, but unfortunately does for a few unlucky patients. Likewise, ITBS is often mistakenly blamed on the knee itself. In either case, this might also explain poor treatment results.
Treatments for Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Therapy options for this common pain syndrome are mostly conservative and long lasting by design. Combination treatments involving physical therapy and exercise therapy, dietary changes and lifestyle changes are the most common. Activity avoidance is a normal part of recovering from ITBS. This is a very difficult part of the syndrome for avid athletes.
Anesthetic injections are often administered to patients with severe pain and surgery is considered for dire unresolved cases of ITBS. Some patients chose to investigate complementary methods of care to increase healing, such as chiropractic, massage and various professional methods of cryotherapy or thermaltherapy.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome Can be Psychoemotionally Motivated
Actual physical cases of this pain syndrome are not as common as one might think based on the large numbers of diagnosed patients. Most physical pain problems are usually successfully treated with appropriate therapies within a short time frame.
Patients with long lasting ITB pain may actually be suffering from the psychosomatic version of the condition and not from any structural issue with the leg itself. Unfortunately, this reality is rarely diagnosed and the patient is hopelessly thrown into a treatment program which will likely fail. Physical treatments will not cure a psychosomatic condition. If you have treatment-resistant ITBS, consider the possibility that your pain might not have any physical basis at all or may have once been structurally-motivated, but may now be psychologically perpetuated.
Iliotibial band irregularities are not unusual and might be blamed for pain when all along the mind is the actual causation. I recommend considering knowledge therapy, since it has succeeded in resolving mindbody versions of this condition time and time again, when physical medical therapy modalities have failed.