Sorry for the title - I'm trying too hard to be clever. This post is about the IT Band and, more to the point, IT Band Syndrome which is my latest injury. My training for the New York Half Marathon had been going great up until last Tuesday when I started to notice some very slight pain on the outside of my left knee. I didn't think much of it -- I'm pretty clumsy sometimes and end up hitting my knee on things like the living room table, so I figured it might just be a bruise from such an incident. On Wednesday the pain got worse, but it still didn't rise to a level where I was all that concerned about it. On Thursday I had a speed workout planned and the farther I ran, the more it hurt...but then at a certain point the pain disappeared and I thought, "hey, maybe it's gone." Then I got off the treadmill...and I could barely walk - it was a very sharp pain that hurt even when I was gingerly walking along. It killed to walk down steps, it killed whenever I would get up out of a chair, it was tender to the touch. It was then that I thought I should probably do some investigation so I went to the trusty interwebs and learned more than I cared to know about IT Band Syndrome.
If you've been a runner for any longer period of time, IT Band Syndrome is not a new term in your vocabulary. It is one of the most common running injuries and is caused by a wide variety of factors. The IT Band (iliotibial band) is actually a very long tendon that runs from your hip to your knee and IT Band Syndrome is essentially a "tendonitis" of sorts -- an inflammation of that tendon. It can be caused by an IT Band that is too wide or too narrow (genetic), it can be caused by overuse (most common) and it can be caused by faulty running mechanics (excessive over-pronation, etc). The most common cause, as I said, is overuse and by that I mean an increase in miles or intensity of training that is done too quickly. In my case I thought I was being somewhat conservative in my training, but as I look back at it - along with a marked increase in miles was an ambitious increase in intensity which I think it what did me in.
The number one treatment for IT Band Syndrome is a runner's least favorite word -- and that's rest. I hate that word. Rest is a euphemism for "don't run" and I feel like with every passing day that I don't run, I'm losing valuable training time. I have just over 6 weeks until the New York Half and I really want to be in tip-top shape. That being said, it is nearly impossible to run with this pain and I would really like to be rid of it before I continue with my training schedule. Fortunately for me, there are a number of things I can do to help speed my recovery.
#1) Ice. A runner's best friend. Almost every article I've read on IT Band issues suggests making icing a priority. 15-20 minutes, 3 times a day (at least).
#2) Use a foam-roller. I didn't have one prior to Friday, but my wife and I bought one and I've been using it ever since. There's a good video on how to use it specifically for the IT Band here on YouTube.
#3) Stretch it out. There are a couple of good stretches in that video as well, but if you do a quick Google search on IT Band stretches, there are many and stretching is key to loosening up your IT Band. IT Band Syndrome is a result of that Band being extremely tight.
#4) Strength Training. As I've read, it's probably not a good idea to start strength training if you're still having pain - but once the pain goes away, the key to preventing future IT Band issues is to strengthen a few key muscle groups. Many of us runners, myself included, can be tempted to completely neglect strength training. This can lead to a whole host of issues and one of them is IT Band Syndrome. Runners tend to be weak in predictable areas and one of those areas is the hips. For more information on specific strength training that can be done to prevent IT Band issues, read this article.
My pain has slowly decreased over the past few days to the point where I may try a get short run tomorrow. I've been icing when I can, foam-rolling a few times a day and stretching. I also was looking around online and found this handy little tool, called the Patt Strap, that I'm hoping will also help. I just bought it today so I'll let you know if it works (or even helps). I'm hopeful that this injury won't sideline me for long, though I am prepared to take the necessary time off in the event that the self-therapy I've been using proves ineffective. I know that this is the type of injury that can linger for a long time if not addressed and in my mind, that would be the worst-case scenario. I would love to hear from any of you out there who've also had experience with this injury to know what helped (or didn't help) you overcome it. Cheers.