How many of us really know what causes our IT Band pains? Do you ever have pains in your knees and no matter what you try struggle to keep pain away? There are so many mechanical issues that we are faced with as runners over time as our bodies take a beating. I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with IT Band issues. Despite being unable to completely remove pain from occurring from time to time, becoming aware of my IT Bands mechanics, function and origin have completely changed the way I train, stretch and approach my long distances. I now know how to better prevent and heal what my body throws at me.
Running outside in the cold temperatures increase the tightness in our muscles. This is when warming up and stretching become extremely important. www.active.com has published an article surrounding IT Band Syndrome! I think that this is something that all runner’s should be aware of.
“Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or ITBS, is a common overuse injury among runners. Although the injury occurs because of inflammation of the tendon near the outside of the knee, the problem often arises from tightness in the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL), a muscle of the hip that inserts into the Iliotibial band.
CAUSES OF ITBS
As you run, hip muscles work together to stabilize the pelvis. The longer you run, the more likely these muscles are to become fatigued. Once fatigue sets in, the hip has a tendency to sag in a side-to-side motion with each stride, which can also cause the knee joint to move inward towards the midline of the body instead of staying in line with your foot.
Athletic trainer Michael Busby, who works specifically with runners, says that weak hip abductors such as the gluteus medius (smaller muscle located on the side of the hip/gluteus) can be an indirect cause of ITBS in running-related injuries. “Weak hip abductors such as the gluteus medius won’t likely cause ITBS on their own,” he says. “But with prolonged lower-extremity movement such as running, weak muscles become exposed, forcing your ITB and the TFL to work harder than they should. The harder they work, the tighter they’ll become.”
While a tight ITB does directly result in inflammation, strengthening the gluteus medius is a must in order to improve hip strength and avoid pain, particularly on long runs.
STRENGTHENING THE GLUTEUS MEDIUS
One exercise that Busby recommends for gluteus medius strengthening is called clamshells. “Clamshells are a great exercise to start with. If your hip abductors are weak, start out doing them with both legs at once.”
To complete this exercise, he instructs his patients to start off using a light resistance band. “Lie on your back and bend your hips to about 45 degrees and your knees to 90 degrees. Keep both knees and feet touching. Using a resistance band, try to rotate your hips out towards the floor, keeping your feet close together.”
“Once that becomes easy, either use a band with more tension or do the clamshells lying on one side instead of your back. With the knees and hips bent to roughly the same angles that you did with the bilateral clamshells on your back, tie the band around your knees and keep the feet together. Rotate your top hip outward so that your knees separate. The goal is to have a 90-degree angle between the leg on the ground and the leg in the air.”
You should feel a burn on the outside portion of the gluteus. Busby recommends completing four sets of 20 repetitions 1 to 2 times every other day.
Another exercise that isolates the hip abductors is hip hikes. To compete this exercise, stand on a raised platform a few inches off the ground (a few books or a stair works perfect). Stand sideways and let one leg dangle off the side. Keep the stabilizing leg straight and let your hip on your unsupported leg lower to the ground.
Continue to keep your balancing leg straight, hike your hip up on the lowered side so that it rises higher than the stabilizing hip. Lower and repeat. The stabilizing hip should not move during the exercise.
After a few repetitions, you should start to feel a burn in the gluteus medius (side of the gluteus). Complete two sets of 20 bilaterally.
It will take a few weeks for you to begin noticing a difference in your strength, but even after you start to feel better, it’s a good idea to continue to progress these strengthening exercises to prevent further injury in the future. Stretching of the TFL is also important to keep up with.
“There’s a lot of debate out there about stretching, if it helps to prevent injury or if it increases the likelihood of an injury occurring,” Busby says. “I’m a firm believer in stretching muscles once they are properly warmed up, especially after a workout. This can help prevent stiffness later on and help to prevent DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which can occur days later.
– written by Marc Lindsay
Stretching your hip flexors, IT Band and Gluteal.
A foam roller is a great way to stretch the IT Band and gluteal by using your body weight rolling along the foam roller. However, to dig even deeper into the hip flexors and gluteal muscle where the IT Band extends from use a tennis ball to roll on, this is how I manage to loosen up those hard to roll places. Depending on how tight you are, you may need to lay on the tennis ball on each side for 30 minutes or more at least 3 times a week until you have worked it enough to lessen the pain. (keep in mind this will hurt but just breath through it)
How to Aggressively Treat IT Band Syndrome:
“It happens too often to many runners—you feel great and set out for an easy run, only to feel the twinge of Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) on the outside of your knee.
You do what any good runner does in this situation: take a few days off, pop some ibuprofen, and then test your leg on a run a few days later. And no surprise—your IT band still hurts.The same tired injury prevention advice isn’t always going to cure an IT band injury. Instead, proactive and intense injury treatment is needed to get healthy and cure your ITBS for good.
ITBS INJURY TREATMENT IN 5 EASY STEPS
Elite athletes are known for aggressively treating injuries so they can maintain their fitness and resume training as quickly as possible. You don’t have to be elite to learn from their treatment plans.
Below are the action steps you can take to get back on track (no apologies for the running pun):
1. STOP RUNNING
Running exacerbates ITBS pain, typically at the knee insertion point, during the acute injury phase. It’s simple—if it hurts to run, don’t run.
2. CROSS TRAIN WITH CYCLING OR POOL RUNNING
These forms of exercise have no impact forces and shouldn’t aggravate your IT band. They help you maintain fitness, circulate healing blood flow, and ensure you recover as quickly as possible. Start conservatively and make sure that either exercise doesn’t bring any pain to your IT band. You can transfer long runs, fast workouts and recovery runs to the pool or bike and you won’t lose much fitness at all. Pool running, elliptical training, cycling and up hill step walking are really the best alternatives and best cross trainers for runners.
3. MASSAGE THE INJURED AREA
This may or may not be appropriate for your specific situation, but in most cases it will help. Use a foam roller and a tennis ball to work out tightness and any trigger points in the quad, IT band, glute, hamstring, and hip. Static stretching of these same areas after massage can also help you feel loose, though it’s still unknown if it offers any practical benefits.
4. INCREASE STRENGTH
Most IT band problems stem from a weakness in the glutes and hip area. It’s vital to strengthen these areas. A series of strength exercises like the ITB Rehab Routine targets the weak areas so you can get back to running sooner. It’s also wise to do core workouts even though they do not directly impact your IT band. With some time off from running, you’ll have time to focus on core strength. Staying on top of the little things is important.
5. SLEEP MORE
Most recovery and soft-tissue healing happen when you’re asleep, so make sure to get a lot of it. During any period of increased training or injury, more sleep can help you recover adequately. That’s because your body enters REM and slow-wave Delta sleep after you’ve been asleep for at least 90 minutes. These are the most restorative sleep cycles for both your body and brain.
HOW TO BE PROACTIVE
Instead of reacting to an injury, know the warning signs before you get hurt in the first place.
First, realize when your body is fatigued. It’s important to run when you’re tired sometimes so you can improve, but recognize when you’re pushing yourself too far: running in old shoes while you’re tired, skipping a recovery day, increasing your volume and workout intensity at the same time, and not getting enough sleep. Be smart.
Try to have foresight instead of hindsight. Looking back it’s usually easy to recognize when you made a poor decision. We’re all human, so recognize when to back off and run easier.
Keep up with your strength exercises; they’re your injury insurance. Skipping them puts you at a higher risk for injuring the IT band (or anything else). Be diligent in strengthening the weak areas that you’re predisposed to injuring.
Remember that running is cumulative, so the best thing you can do for your long-term progress is stay consistent. Strong injury treatment—instead of pure rest—can get you back on the road faster and ready to train.”
– written by Jason Fitzgerald
When you know how the IT Band works and its placement within the body you are better able to prevent and overcome the many injuries this diverse muscle encompasses. Know your body, know when to stop, the first priority is taking care of ourselves so that we can achieve the goals we set out to achieve.