SaveYourself.ca •Sensible advice for aches, pains & injuries
 
Knee straps for iliotibial band syndrome are of questionable value.

Can a soft elastic strap make a difference? Possible. But almost definitely not how you think …

Knee straps for iliotibial band syndrome might help…

… but they are not exactly your strongest option!


by Paul Ingraham, Vancouver, Canada bio
I am a science writer, a former massage therapist, and the Assistant Editor of Science-Based Medicine since 2009. I am nearly done with a long-procrastinated Bachelor of Health Sciences degree. I am a middle-aged runner and ultimate player with plenty of personal experience with athletic injury and chronic pain. Readers often want to know more about me and my qualifications, because my style and subject matter is controversial. Most importantly, yes, I used to actually believe and practice almost everything that I now debunk and criticize. I live by the ocean with my wife in beautiful downtown Vancouver.

Soft knee straps with velcro closures are often recommended for iliotibial band syndrome, a painful and common knee injury. Knee straps are intended to be worn just above the knee.1 But while it is clear that straps may have some therapeutic benefit, they are almost certainly not your best option for self-treatment of iliotibial band syndrome. In fact, they are near the bottom of the list!

On the bright side, they are also cheap and risk-free!

Read on to find out how straps are supposed to work, how well they work, and exactly what to buy and what to try.

Are they “crap”?

Reader Karen McCullough wrote in to ask:

After reading your article, I thought the strap idea was probably crap. But another health care professional just told me that she’d done some research, and that the idea behind the strap was to loosen the iliotibial band on the pad of fat tissue by tightening the ITBS right above it. What do you think?

Karen McCullough, Whitewater, Wisconson

I’m such a debunker that I usually don’t have much nice to say about products like this, and that’s probably why Karen thought it was “probably crap” after reading about ITBS here on SaveYourself.ca.

But in fact I actually think straps do have some potential to help — just not for the reason given by Karen’s source. I’ve seen many such “mechanical” explanations of why straps work, and so it’s worth addressing here.

Clearly there is some confusion about just what, exactly, this product is supposed to do! Even the people who sell them tend not to understand why they might actually work. I assure you, whatever the mechanism of action might be, it is not mechanical. So the answer Karen got was definitely incorrect in my opinion, in at least two ways:

Nevertheless, there is decent (albeit indirect) evidence that the strap can help! Joint function depends on extremely complex sensory input and motor output relationships. Exactly how we use our knee depends heavily on how our knee feels. The “feeling” of knee use is based on the “6th sense” of proprioception (see The Sixth Sense), and involves an enormous amount of neurological data.

The theory is that wearing the strap alters proprioception in the knee and often has a (slightly mysterious) benefit for various types of knee pain, including iliotibial band syndrome. This has been suggested by experimental results, so it’s not that far out.2

Exactly how we use our knee depends heavily on how our knee feels.

Anecdotally, I have certainly seen some signs that the strap is helpful, although your mileage will definitely vary. Some people get absolutely no results from it, while others seem quite strongly affected. But remember, this is a cheap and easy and risk-free intervention … which means that if there is the slightest evidence that it works, it is firmly in the “worth a shot” category of treatments! There is really no reason not to try it.

I recommend that you drop in on FootSmart.com and pick their Pro-Tec Iliotibial Band strap for just $15 (USD). “One size fits most,” and they have a 120-day satisfaction guarantee, so you can return it if it doesn’t do the trick for you.

Instead of knee straps …

Learn more!

In my experience, practically everyone who is shopping for knee straps would be better off learning more about iliotibial band syndrome first. But what to read? Who to ask? Right now you will get more than 123,000 search results when you Google for “iliotibial band syndrome.” Most are short, poorly written, and inaccurate.

They are of almost no use to you.

Thanks to the misinformation explosion, myths and misconceptions about iliotibial band syndrome are even more widespread than they used to be, even among health care professionals.

Some health care professionals have taken the time to study ITB syndrome properly, of course. But it’s usually impossible to luck out and find one before your training schedule is blown to smithereens.

You get what you pay for

I have taken years of research and professional experience and put it all into a detailed, referenced article which will teach you basically everything there is to know about ITB syndrome. The information about straps offered above is taken from just one of sections in the article.

Why pay for information? Because you get what you pay for. If you go with the free stuff, you’ll get a confusing mess of obsolete and inadequate information. If you pay a few bucks, you’ll get detailed, referenced, current information — and it may even be entertaining!

I do not offer a foolproof system for beating iliotibial band syndrome. There is no such thing! But I know that you will understand this frustrating condition better than most health care professionals by the time you are done. It’s just like coming to my office and having a nice long conversation about it, where all your questions get answered.

Paul Ingraham, SaveYourself.ca Publisher
ScienceBasedMedicine.org, AssistantAsst. Editor
778-968-0930 (Vancouver)


Full access to the ITBS tutorial is available immediately for USD$1995. Click the “Buy Now” button to purchase access.

Buy! $19.95. All major credit cards and PayPal accepted. Add the iliotibial band syndrome tutorial to your cart.

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iD  Vendor Identification
CompanyRegeneration Training
OwnerPaul Ingraham
Location888 Pacific Street
Vancouver, Canada
Service778-968-0930
paul@SaveYourself.ca
Guarantee100% money-back
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store by eSellerate
security by GeoTrust
  • Secure payment takes about 2 minutes. No password or login, delivery is instant, and get a full refund any time, forever. MORE
  • What do you get, exactly? An online tutorial, book-length (51,000 words). MORE
  • Buy more & save 50%! Get a “boxed” set of all eight tutorials for great savings.MORE

Plus …

  • Free second tutorial! When you buy this tutorial, you will also get Save Yourself from Trigger Points and Myofascial Pain Syndrome! — a $1995 value. Muscles knots (trigger points) are actually not a critical factor in IT band pain rehab, but treating them is worthwhile. The trigger point tutorial is a valuable guide that everyone can benefit from.
Buy! $19.95. All major credit cards and PayPal accepted. Add the iliotibial band syndrome tutorial to your cart.

secure, instant digital delivery
money-back guarantee
call 778-968-0930 for help

Notes

  1. Below-the-knee straps probably have little relevance to iliotibial band syndrome: they are much more common, and are usually recommended for different conditions, namely patellofemoral syndrome and jumper’s knee. BACK TO TEXT
  2. Callaghan et al. The effects of patellar taping on knee joint proprioception. Journal of Athletic Training. 2002. PubMed #12937439.

    This article provides an important clue that may help to rationalize the use of a “Patt Strap,” “Cho Strap” or “iliotibial band syndrome strap,” and also suggests a possible mechanism for therapeutic effect on patellofemoral syndrome in particular, as well as other problems. This evidence suggests that proprioception is enhanced by patellar taping. From the abstract: “Subjects with good proprioception did not benefit from patellar taping. However, in those healthy subjects with poor proprioceptive ability ... patellar taping provided proprioceptive enhancement.”

    BACK TO TEXT