Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB Syndrome) is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. You’ll know it when you have it because the “IT band“, the ligament that runs down your outer thighs from pelvis to shin, is super tight, swollen, and often inflamed. The result? Pain, sometimes severe, when flexing the knee.
Some causes of IT band syndrome
ITB syndrome usually results from running on uneven surfaces, wearing work-out shoes, running too long a distance without proper training, or running too many track workouts in the same direction. ITB syndrome affects about 1 in 10 runners and is more common among women and anyone whose hips tilt in a way that causes their knees to turn in.
What do you do if you have IT band syndrome?
Treatment is relatively simple, but relief may take several weeks. The most important action is to take a few days off, or at the very least, cut your mileage in half and walk the first quarter mile before you start running to warm things up. Run on softer surfaces (not asphalt) and run a flat trail or track instead of a bumpy one. You should also check your running shoes.
You should also seek a qualified massage therapist. The therapist will warm up the area with light strokes, then use kneading to strategically work the muscles around the ITB. Then they’ll apply deeper pressure to strip the ITB to eliminate tight spots. Next they’ll search for trigger pints and work those with circular friction or neuromuscular therapy. The whole session should last about 30 minutes. You’ll feel immediate relief, and if you follow the treatment recommends above, you’ll be your speedy self in no time.
In a series of case studies reported in the Internal Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (June 2015), researchers found targeted massage therapy, along with physical therapy, returned runners to pain free running in fewer visits that just physical therapy, taping or orthoses alone.
If the problem doesn’t go away after several weeks, seek help from a sports medicine professional. You may need a cortisone injection to break up scar tissue and speed healing. This is a last resort, however, since cortisone can weaken connective tissue, like tendons and ligaments.
At the end of the day, then, a little ice, a reduction in running activity, and a sports massage is your ticket to quicker return to your running routine.