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Combating IT Band Syndrome

One of the most annoying and aggravating injuries that you might experience throughout your training can be Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome.

This injury has the potential to take you out of your training entirely, so it’s vital that you learn the steps you need to take to combat it, so that you can continue to train pain-free and particularly, run pain-free.

Let’s briefly take a look at what this problem is all about and what you can do to be sure it doesn’t take you down.

What Is IT Band Syndrome?

First, let’s briefly look at what causes IT Band Syndrome in the first place.  This problem is an overuse issue that occurs on the outer side of the leg in many runners who are increasing their pace, mileage, or both.  

The pain occurs in a ligament that runs from the hip to the shin on the outside of the leg and can often be so severe that you are unable to run entirely.

What occurs is that this ligament starts rubbing against the knee bones, causing a high amount of friction, which then leads to inflammation.  If you’re a runner who has pain on the outside of the knee, then you may want to visit your doctor to check if it's IT Band Syndrome.

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

So, what causes IT Band Syndrome? One of the most common causes of this problem is poorly cushioned shoes.  Many runners go far too long without changing shoes and the reduced support and cushioning they have will be what causes the pain to set in.

In addition to that, doing too much hill running can also cause pain to develop, or doing too much too soon. If you suddenly increase your total weekly running distance and notice pain occurs immediately after, that’s a sign you’ve increased it too extensively. Other causes include imbalances in leg length or uneven running form, which should be checked by a medical professional. Often times, orthotics will help combat any running imbalances that strain the IT Band.

How You Can Prevent IT Band Syndrome

In order to help prevent IT Band Syndrome, make sure that you keep a list of your training runs so that you can track how many miles you’re putting in.  Often runners don’t track this and that is what causes them to wait too long before changing their shoes or ramping up mileage too soon (I am famously guilty of this...).

In addition to that, make sure that you find yourself a good training plan.  This will ensure that you have a proper build-up of miles and aren’t going to be doing "too much too soon."  A good plan will gradually build upon itself so that your body is fully able to tolerate each and every session that you do.

Another great way to prevent IT Band Syndrome is to make sure that you change the track you’re running on periodically as well.  If you always run on the exact same path each and every session, this too can increase your chances of suffering from this injury.  Varying your run terrain will help reduce the risk of injury, while also making your training runs that much more interesting and enjoyable. 

Also, make the foam roller your best friend. Rolling our your IT Band before and after runs, no matter the length, can make a major difference in run preparation and recovery. Perhaps roll the affected area 10-15 times to avoid bruising from this deep tissue therapy.

Finally, if you do already have IT Band Syndrome and are trying to combat it so that you can get back to your runs again, rest and ice will be your best friend.  As hard as it is to take time away from running, you must really try to rest.

Cross training also another excellent way to change the nature of the stress on the knee so as to not aggravate the injury any further while also maintaining your fitness level.

There you have the main points to note about IT band syndrome.  Be very careful about this injury because once it develops, it’s a hard injury to get away from.