If you’re a runner or just love metcons that include running (highly doubtful) Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IT Band Syndrome) is a very common overuse injury that can leave you sidelined. Many people suffer from IT Band Syndrome, yet most people don’t understand what it is or how to fix it. Today, we're going to give you some pointers on how to fix your IT band.
What is the IT Band?
The IT Band is a long, thick ligament that runs along the outside of the hip, down the outside of the thigh and knee, which attaches to the top of your shinbone. The IT band is not a muscle and it cannot contract, therefore it does not lengthen, shorten or stretch; it’s pulled by the muscles attached to it and pushed by the vasus laterals or the outer quad. The gluteal or buttock muscle fibers and the tensor fascia latae (muscles of the hip joint) attach to it, and the band acts to coordinate muscle function and stabilize the knee during running. When the attached muscles surrounding the IT band become too tight, you have a problem.
One of the main functions of the IT band is to help stabilize the knee. When the muscles attached to the IT band become constricted, it creates tension, which then causes friction and compression of the knee. This added friction leads to swelling and inflammation, which can cause severe pain on the outside of the knee. That severe pain is called Iliotibial Band Syndrome.
How Can IT Band Syndrome Occur?
IT band syndrome can occur from
- Improper training techniques
- Old or unsuitable footwear
- Failing to warm up or cool down
- Not stretching
- Ramping up workouts too quickly
Running or training on wrong surfaces such as
- Running Downhill
- Running on a sloped side of the road, which can tilt your hips and attribute to misalignment creating body imbalances
- Training on banked surfaces
Most of us just want to throw on our Nike Flyknits and run for a few miles without having to spend the extra time on stretching, warming up and spending $120 on a new pair of shoes. But without the proper preventative action, you can end up skipping your Metcons and staying at home. Not for a few days, but sometimes for weeks.
If the muscles attached to the IT band are already tight, these factors can force the body to compensate, worsening symptoms by causing further irritation.
How To Fix Your IT Band
Most of us treat IT band syndrome like any other injury. Take a few days off, pop some ibuprofen, strap your shoes on and try again. But as soon as you start, your knee still hurts.
IT band injury isn’t like other minor injuries. If you want to get back to running or your normal programming, you need to be proactive with aggressive injury treatment. Confront the underlying issues such as tightness and weakness in the muscles attached to the IT band. This will help correct for any imbalances, which can cause further detriment to your IT band.
If your IT band hurts, then listen to your body and stop. Running exacerbates IT band syndrome and the associated acute pain. Take a few days off and proceed with the following treatment continuum.
Foam rolling helps with the mobility of fascia. Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia can constrict normal range of motion, further causing imbalances and flaring IT band symptoms.
Furthermore, mobility can be restricted by scar tissue, as new layers of fascia are created due to IT band injury and inflammation. If this tissue is not properly treated, mobilized and aligned, it can create future injuries and prolonged recovery. Need a foam roller but don't know where to start? Check out BarBends review of the best foam rollers.
Vasus Lateralis Release
- Lie on one side, with a foam roller under your bottom leg halfway between your hip and knee.
- Slide your leg up and down along the foam roller, moving it from the top of the knee to the base of the hip, trying to work over the more tender areas.
- Repeat for 30-second to two-minute intervals.
- To focus on a specific area of the IT band, locate the most tender area with the foam roller and stop. Bend your knee at a 90-degree angle, and then straighten. Repeat motion of bending and straightening the knee for 10 to 15 seconds. Switch sides.
Taking the proper preventative action with an active warm-up will help build and recover attached glute muscles and hip flexors to avoid further injury.Hip Raise
- Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your arms out to your sides at 45-degree angles, your palms facing up.
- Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips and push through your heels.
- Pause your rep for five seconds in the extended position, then lower your body back to the starting position.
- Lie face-up in the supine position, and let your arms rest comfortably at your sides.
- Bend both legs, and drive your heels through the floor and squeeze both glutes, as you drive your hips and pelvis towards the ceiling.
- Contract your glutes, pause, then return your hips back down to the floor.
- Perform 10-20 paused reps, fully contract then rest and repeat.
Run on a flat Surface
Try running the middle of the road to avoid any slopes or improper surface alignment.
Replace your shoes regularly
Buying those brand new, super dope Nike Flyknit racers could be the difference between you and your achy knees. It's an investment in your health. Just sayin!