One of the most common runner injury complaints has to do with the IT band. Whether pain presents first in the knee or hip — or somewhere in between — the injury can take time to manage and heal. If you are experiencing severe, pointed pain, the inflammation has likely become acute. Time off your feet and a trip to a physical therapist might be in order for more advanced care.
For those of you with a duller, more nagging ache, these four defenses may keep you in the running — all while helping with IT band pain management, lessening of friction, and correcting the root cause.
Active stretching before you set foot out the door may help loosen the IT band at the hip, meaning it won’t pull at the knee and start to hurt minutes into your run. It’s important to properly stretch, though, or else you might risk causing more harm. Here’s a quick DO and DON’T example for you to check out.
After your run, a few static stretches be beneficial and therapeutic. Here are a few more great IT band stretches. From personal experience, even regular yoga sessions (at the gym or at home) can transform your flexibility, possibly helping the issue go away altogether.
The foam roller is a runner’s best friend. This statement is even more true for the runner with IT-band woes. If you’re new to rolling, it’s not terribly difficult, though the sensation can take some getting used to. Here’s a great video demonstration of a myofascial release technique to get you started and also some foam rolling techniques specific to the IT band.
Roll on days when you do run. Roll on days when you don’t run.
Since pain occurs when the IT band is inflamed caused by friction, heat might actually hinder healing. Instead, opt for conservative icing after your run. I write “conservative” because it’s easy when we’re injured to get carried away with anything that professes to help or heal. I’ve heard from around 10-12 minutes of ice on, alternating with 10-12 minutes off for a few cycles. I always cover my ice pack with a washcloth so it’s not too cold.
Strengthen and correct
Sometimes a muscular imbalance is responsible for IT band issues. It’s difficult to determine without professional consultation, but if the band hurts on just one leg — check out the other. And then ask yourself a few questions: Is the quad or calf visibly stronger? Have you had any injuries to the foot (or anywhere else in the leg, for that matter) that might have you over-compensating? Are your shoes worn evenly . . . or not? Etc.
Like many injuries, IT band pain often happens as a result — chain reaction — of some other issue elsewhere on the body. In this case, it’s the legs and feet (and sometimes even core muscles), so some targeted strengthening or form-work might be in order to correct an imbalance. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a fantastically detailed article all about ITBS, its causes, and some correction techniques.
If after stretching, rolling, icing, and otherwise dealing with pain and frustration for too long, it’s a good idea to get checked out so running can return to normal (or perhaps a “new” normal) sooner rather than later.
Do you suffer from chronic IT-band issues? What is your best method of defense?
Written by Ashley Marcin.