Running is a tough sport. It requires mental strength, physical strength, dedication and perseverance through the many adversities that runners face. Running is one of the most physically demanding sports, mainly because you put your body through constant jarring and rigorous movement. The result, for even the most skilled runners, is often injury. The most common running injuries can be traced back to overuse of, and under-care of, your muscles. One of these particular injuries, IT Band Friction Syndrome, is very common amongst runners, especially distance runners.
Here are the basics of what you need to know about your IT Band:
What’s an IT Band? Your IT band, or iliotibial band, refers to the tissue (ligament) that runs down the outside of your thigh, from your hip to your shinbone, just below your knee. The IT band attaches to your knee and helps stabilize and move the knee joint.
What is IT Band Friction Syndrome and what are its causes? IT band syndrome simple refers to a tightness, or inflammation, of your IT band. When the IT band is overworked, it can become tight or stiff, especially without proper stretching and care. As your IT band approaches your knee, it becomes thinner, and therefore less strong. So, any repeated movement that strains this particular section of your IT band, such as running down or uphill, running a great number of miles, improper running form, or inappropriate running shoes, can result in friction between the band and your bones. This will result in pain along the outer thigh and especially around the knee.
How can I prevent it or treat it?
Prevention: The first way to ensure you are successful and safe from injuries is to be properly equipped. So, investing in quality running shoes is an absolute must, and you should remember to replace your running shoes at appropriate intervals. When to replace your running shoes is dependent and many factors such as the surface on which you run, how many miles you are running, etc., so do some research before deciding for yourself! Secondly, make sure you’re running on flat surfaces, and avoid concrete as much as you can since it is extremely jarring on your muscles.
Treatment: Rest! Rest is the best thing you can do for your body to treat an injury. While you’re resting, be sure to give attention and care to your muscle. Since the IT band runs along the outside of your thigh, incorporate side stretches into a daily routine of stretching and lengthening your muscles. Another great way to strengthen the IT band is by doing squats. However, if you’re already experiencing pain, squats may further inflame the muscle, so be wary, and do what feels best for your body!
If you’re an avid exerciser, you’ve probably considered foam rolling as a treatment for exercise related injuries. If you haven’t, the concept is simple: using a foam roller is like giving yourself a very focused, intense massage. Foam rollers help target muscles that are tight, or have “knotted,” from overuse, misuse, or mistreatment. You use a foam roller to put pressure on the specific muscle causing you pain, helping that muscle recover by increasing mobility and fluidity. For more information on this process, called myofascial release, check out our blog, “What is Myofascial Release.” There are a few things to be wary of, though, if you’re considering foam rolling. The process will cause some discomfort, as you’ll be putting pressure on muscles that are already hurting. Also, while foam rolling may help relieve minor pain, you may only be addressing a surface problem without getting to the true reason for your pain.
In order to take care of your pain fully, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional on the best treatment plan for your particular malady and find what will work for you!