Every spring and summer, I see a parade of clients through my door with knee pain that threatens to sideline their latest training plan.
Does this sound familiar to you? You start off your run full of hope and free of pain. But about a mile or two into the run, you feel pain on the outside of your knee or hip. Or, perhaps you feel the pain the next morning after a longer run. You try taking a few days off to heal, but the pain remains.
Could it be IT syndrome? Brought on by a sudden increase in training mileage or even a single unusually long workout, IT syndrome is nothing more than an irritation (tightening) of a band of connective tissue that goes from the hip (the iliac crest) to the shin bone (the tibia). It’s important to remember that the IT band is NOT a muscle; however, it serves a crucial role in stabilizing the knee while walking or running.
Your IT band may be naturally tight or it can stiffen after moderate to intense exercise. Either way, a tight IT band = rubbing on the hip or knee, which = pain.
How can you preventing IT syndrome? While ice and rest will help reduce the pain short-term, the long-lasting cure is to maintain a healthy (read: flexible) IT band. The best ways to treat your IT band right include:
- Always warm up and stretch before moderate to intense exercise, especially running
- Be sure to rest and recover after exercise (a great option is foam rolling)
- Focus on knee and hip flexibility with targeted stretching and rolling
- Maintain your conditioning (and increase distance slowly)
- Wear proper shoes for your feet (such as orthotics for flat feet)
- Follow proper training protocols at the first sign of pain:
- Reduce mileage
- Shorten your stride
- Avoid running hills or banked surfaces
Remember: Tight muscles in your hips or on the outside of your thigh can be a key factor in IT syndrome. The tissue is all connected, so what you may think is a knee injury can really be a symptom of an IT band issue.
Balance is key. What you do to one side of your body, do to the other. In addition to more traditional stretching, remember to use the foam roller and/or a tennis ball to dig into your muscle fiber along the hips and along the outside of your leg. Do these exercises on both legs. If you’re not sure how to get started, join me in one of my regular foam roller classes to learn how you can treat your IT band at home.
Professional hands-on work and guidance through your treatment is extremely helpful. To help further identify imbalances in your body, you should consider getting a muscle assessment.
It takes time to treat IT syndrome and get your IT band back in top shape, so be patient and use the tools at your disposal to properly heal and/or prevent common overuse injuries. If your pain persists longer than a few weeks seek further medical intervention and individualized treatment.
Need some help getting back on track? Give me a call today and we’ll get your IT band running again! (404) 964-6754