Background: Shortening of the iliotibial band (ITB) has been considered to be associated with low back pain (LBP). It is theorized that ITB tightness in individuals with LBP is a compensatory mechanism following hip abductor muscle weakness. However, no study has clinically examined this theory. The purpose of this study was to investigate the muscle imbalance of hip abductor muscle weakness and ITB tightness in subjects with LBP.
Methods: A total of 300 subjects with and without LBP between the ages of 20 and 60 participated in this cross-sectional study. Subjects were categorized in three groups: LBP with ITB tightness (n = 100), LBP without ITB tightness (n = 100) and no LBP (n = 100). Hip abductor muscle strength was measured in all subjects.
Results: Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) with the body mass index (BMI) as the covariate revealed significant difference in hip abductor strength between three groups (P < 0.001). Post hoc analysis showed no significant difference in hip abductor muscle strength between the LBP subjects with and without ITB tightness (P = 0.59). However, subjects with no LBP had significantly stronger hip abductor muscle strength compared to subjects with LBP with ITB tightness (P < 0.001) and those with LBP without ITB tightness (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: The relationship between ITB tightness and hip abductor weakness in patients with LBP is not supported as assumed in theory. More clinical studies are needed to assess the theory of muscle imbalance of hip abductor weakness and ITB tightness in LBP.