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:
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!