This article is a companion to a stupendously detailed tutorial about iliotibial band syndrome.
Bad information about iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) rears its ugly head everywhere I go. My wife and I are on vacation in Qualicum Beach right now — a little community on the eastern edge of Canada’s spectacular Vancouver Island. It’s a place just begging to be called “quaint.”
Qualicum Beach is most notable for its complete lack of franchises, big box stores and other signs of North America’s cult of retail. Many years ago the town council made the extraordinary decision that Qualicum Beach would be an oasis of charming small business, and refused to allow any of the big brands and chains to throw up a shingle here — there’s plenty of that just a ways down the highway in Nainamo and Parksville.
The result? 100% pure quaintness. You can’t huck a stick here without hitting a little “mom and pop” business — a phenomenon practically dead everywhere else in North America.Qualicum Beach is a place just begging to be called “quaint.”
We may be on vacation, but I never really stop working. (I’m writing this, for instance.) While shopping in this paradise of independent businesses yesterday, Kim spotted a copy of Canadian Running magazine with a feature story about iliotibial band syndrome — my favourite injury.
“What’s iyelleo tibyell syndrome?” my 12-year-old nephew asked, pronouncing it about as well as most adults when they first encounter it. I put on my Uncle Paul hat and taught him more in 30 seconds than most runners know about it, and probably even more than a good percentage of therapists and doctors.
Canadian Running got it almost all wrong, of course. Everything after the definition of the condition was pretty much a waste of shiny paper.
Scanning the article, I counted errors so thick that I had to slow down to count them — all the classics, decorated with beautiful photos and nice anatomical illustrations of the IT band. What a waste! They hit the “strengthening” myth particularly hard — the weak idea that hip strengthening is supposedly a good treatment for this injury. They devoted a section to recommending a completely unproven, dubious therapy to their readers, without so much as a syllable of the scientific research that’s been done on the subject — every stitch of which leaves the sincere reader totally underwhelmed.
“Doesn’t anyone read the science before they give patients advice?” I ranted to my wife.
“Just you, hon,” she said. (She’s heard it all this before, of course.)
I swear I am not one of those conspiracy people. I don’t see enemies of truth behind every bush. Sometimes conventional wisdom is bang on — often, in fact. But it’s just a sad fact of human nature that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.I swear to God I am not one of those conspiracy people. I don’t see enemies of truth behind every bush.
The problem is that there is very little knowledge available about iliotibial band syndrome, and everyone who’s heard something from a supposedly credible source clings to it like it’s gospel for the rest of their days. So, for instance, therapists learn something incredibly basic from a teacher in school — some obsolete scrap of obsolete information, barely better than an old wive’s tale — and before you know it a decade has flown by and they’re still telling IT band pain patients, “It’s important to strengthen your hip muscles. That’ll help.” And in that time, 95% of those professionals will not read one single piece of new scientific writing about it.
It’s just how it goes.
Don’t believe everything you read. Believe evidence. Canadian Running got it completely wrong. Science is never done, and it’s never perfect, but there is good and recent research and expert opinion out there that completely fails to show that hip strengthening has any significant effect on iliotibial band syndrome. Of coure you can read all about it in SaveYourself.ca’s scrumptiously detailed ITBS tutorial, a perfect gift for the runner in your life with aching knees:
Or see this detailed article for some more information on the hip strengthening issue: