Friday, October 16, 2009

Iliotibial Band Syndrome for the win!

I just got back from the sports medicine doctor, and it’s the iliotibial band for the win!!  My internet research/running injury savvy told me that this was most likely the culprit, but I figured an expert opinion couldn’t hurt.  More or less, I have classic iliotibial band syndrome…pain right outside the knee, radiating up towards the hip.  This excellent visualization helps show the IT band:

As you can (hopefully) tell, the IT band is kind of important in running and is a pretty common injury.  The IT band functions to help stabilize the leg during “knee-bending activities” (aka running), so with repetitive motions, it can become irritated.  The friction created between the IT band and the underlying anatomy at the outer knee (the lateral femoral condyle, if you really want to know…the outside bony part on the bottom of your femur) can result in pain and inflammation.  Fantastic.

Risks for IT Band Syndrome include:

  • Distance running!  And other knee-bending activities such as cycling
  • Increasing mileage or intensity too quickly
  • Lack of flexibility, especially in the IT band
  • Lack of proper warm-up prior to activity
  • Anything that puts increased stress on the outer leg…such as always running on a banked surface (think:  always against traffic on the road) or wearing improper shoes

Treatments for IT Band Syndrome include:

  • Rest!  Ahhh, every runner’s worst nightmare.
  • Checking your shoes to make sure they’re the right type for your feet (check the wear on the bottom!) and making sure to rotate/replace your shoes at the proper intervals
  • Change the direction you run!  Run on both sides of the street, run both directions on the track.
  • Stretching!  Increased flexibility, especially of the IT band…when your muscles are warm.  “Sweat before you stretch.”
  • Apply heat to the area prior to exercising, apply ice after exercise.

Here are some examples of stretches for the iliotibial band, compliments of Running Times:

image image

So what’s the main treatment for IT Band Syndrome?  Figuring out what the cause of it is and removing that factor.  I’m not necessarily sure what caused mine to flare up.  I’ve worn the same shoes since I was 17 (that’s eight years!) and I replace them at the proper intervals.  I run mostly on a trail which is flat…even if it’s not, I run out and back on the same side (mostly), so I’d be mixing it up.  I increased my mileage properly, and I’ve successfully trained for marathons before so I know my body can handle the volume. 

One activity I don’t do religiously is stretch.  When my mileage creeps up, less time is available for stretching and strength training, and they tend to fall by the wayside in my life.  Perhaps my IT band is just tight and I need to do some stretches to loosen it up.  I’m not flexible by any means, so hopefully some flexibility work will help with the pain.  I’ve certainly done the resting part…I haven’t run in a month, and I took the first week completely off…no biking or anything.  I’m hoping that by stretching and continuing to ice, I’ll be able to run again soon.  I would still like to run the Philadelphia Marathon, although at this point I realize I won’t be setting any records!

Hopefully this post was at least somewhat informative!  I’m hoping that I will be able to implement some stretching that will allow me to run again…stay tuned!


  1. I've had an IT band issue before and the foam roller always helps. I have never had it bad enough to stop me from running though ;)

    Just roll that sucker out three times a day and it should help. One of the things that was causing it for me was running the same route constantly (road banking). I now run several different routes to switch things up!

  2. I'm so happy you found out that that's what it was for sure. Now you're on the road to recovery! Good luck!

  3. At least you know what was causing the problem! Frustrating, but now you can hopefully get to running again soon!

  4. whenever I've had IT band issues, I foam roll & increase stretching. And maybe it is the shoes - if you've been wearing the same ones for 7 years, your feet may have changed a bit, and you may need to try something different. Have you had a gait analysis at a running store lately? If not, I would totally recommend one! You never know if the shoe has changed or if your feet have changed....

  5. I did find the post informative! It's a good reminder to stretch, replace your shoes when necessary, and where/how to run... for all runners!

    Did the doctor give any estimate on how long it will take to heal? Or did he just say to try the stretching and icing and see how it goes?

  6. Thanks for sharing the pics on the ITB stretch - that second one looks like it'll hit the spot.

    I had issues with that on my right, & if I'm not careful, I can still feel it whine once in a while.

    And it hurts like a mother, but rolling out my ITB on the foam roller does wonders!

  7. I'm glad you know what's up; now you can hop right into a safe and speedy recovery.

    I'm *terrible* about stretching, especially my IT-band. This post definitely will scare me into doing more of it, so thanks. :)

  8. Sorry to hear about the IT band, but at least now you know what is going on and you can try and get it under control. I'm not one to stretch at all either, even though it was such a daily part of my life in all high school sports and in college. I guess I save my stretching for Sunday yoga!

  9. Confirmation of the problem is always a great way to start recovery. The second stretch, i find to work better than the first. Hope your IT band starts to feel better.

  10. Ahh, the good ole "runner's knee" (I.T. Band syndrome) That's what did me in :( Take it easy and stretch stretch stretch!

    Very informative post too! I feel smarter already! :)

  11. awww take time to take care of that girl :) very very good post though and good to know info!

  12. Oh man! My IT band was always in so much pain using the foam roller. I need to work on my stretching too. Hopefully it won't set you back and you'll still be able to run the marathon!

  13. Hi! I've been googling IT Band syndrome and came across your blog. I ran a 1/2 marathon 3 weeks ago and I have had leg pain.I went to a sports doctor a few days ago and I've been diagnosed with IT Band syndrome :( I was told 3 weeks off from running and received a prescription for PT. I am so bummed!

    I was wondering whether or not you know if the elliptical is good or bad for the injury?

  14. I'd been searching for the answer to my leg pain and found it here. I followed the heat-before-stretching/ice afterwards, and my leg feels better already. Thanks Nurse on the Run!

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