Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Workout Wednesday: Coping Strategies for IT Band Woes

The IT band.  It is a word that is prone to causing runners to visibly cringe and shy away from further contact with the idea.   I know I was one of those runners...terrified of the thought that my IT band would ever flare up and cause me to question why I run at all.

Well, after months of heavy mileage and insufficient IT Band finally came knocking for the first time this past week.   With everything else I have had going on pain/injury wise - I guess it figured "what's one more guest to the party?"

Well, Mr. IT Band...this is one party you are NOT welcome to attend and I plan to expel you ASAP!!!

So, off to Dr. Google I went to figure out what I needed to know to beat this foe.  I figured this week's Workout Wednesday would be the perfect time to share my findings with you and to offer up the things that have brought me a great deal of relief as I wage war on pain and tightness.   I've tried to include videos wherever they might explain it better than the written word (what in the world did we ever do before YouTube?)

Please note - I am no doctor.  I am just sharing the research I did in the hopes that it might help others and provide some relief from the hell that is ITBS.   Don't mistake this for medical advice and feel free to talk to your doctor before trying anything I write about here!

What is the IT Band?

The iliotibial band (ITB) is a thick band of fascia that is formed proximally by the confluence of fascia from hip flexors, extensors, and abductors. The band originates at the lateral iliac crest and extends distally to the patella, tibia, and biceps femoris tendon.

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a common knee injury that usually presents as lateral knee pain caused by inflammation of the distal portion of the iliotibial band; occasionally, however, the iliotibial band becomes inflamed at its proximal origin and causes referred hip pain.

ITBS occurs frequently in Runners and Cyclists

(ok - it's a little medical term heavy...but I liked it may give you a jumping off point for your own research)


Symptoms of ITBS?

Stinging sensation just above the knee joint (on the outside of the knee or along the entire length of the iliotibial band) to swelling or thickening of the tissue at the point where the band moves over the femur. The pain may not occur immediately during activity, but may intensify over time, especially as the foot strikes the floor.


What causes ITBS?
  • Leg length differences
  • Road camber - running on a slope for a long time
  • Foot structure
  • Excessive shoe breakdown - particularly it the outside of the heel
  • Training intensity errors - increasing mileage or intensity too fast
  • Muscle imbalances - particularly quads versus hamstrings
  • Run/gait style factors - e.g. bow-leggedness, knock knees, etc.


  • Activity modification
  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening
  • Ice
  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (eg. ibuprofen)

I found this wonderful video on YouTube about a short exercise regiment than can strengthen and help prevent flare ups of ITBS:

Stretches that Help

Pigeon Pose (Yoga)
This position is my new best friend.   I'm not sure why I had never tried it before because it feels sooo gooood and is soooo effective!

Crossed leg stretch (for lack of a better name)
Cross one leg in front of the other in a standing position.   Bend to the side and forward.  You should feel the stretch along the outer thigh on the leg that is behind.

Therapeutic Tools

Foam Roller - Myofascial release can hurt like hell while you're doing it but feel so good after.  I have trouble rolling along the side of my leg - I just don't have the strength and balance for it...but I have friends who swear by it.

The Stick - Portable and easy to target the area.  I love my Stick.  Well worth the money spent on this tool! 

Tennis Ball - for targeted deep tissue massage

KT Tape - Kinesio Tape may not help you GET better,...but it can help you FEEL better while you work at getting back to 100%.  I haven't tried it yet, but my dad swears by it for his Plantar Fascitis so I figure I'll give it a try for my long run this Saturday...

I'm hoping this helps bring fellow sufferers some relief.  Maybe we can all beat this bastard together!!! 

Happy running! and happy healing!

Do you suffer from ITBS woes?  What are your coping strategies?  If you've tried something I missed here - please mention it in the comments or over on the Read.Write.Run.Mom. Facebook page!


  1. I had it really, really back starting in November of 2009. It lasted for months!!! I had tons of physical therapy. It helped, but the key for me was to get wrapped up in a cross country move & stop running for a few months. Once we moved, I eased back into it super slow. Every now and then I feel a twinge or pain. Luckily, I've been able to keep it under control with LOTS of stretching and ice after pretty much each run. For sure after a long run. Even if my knee doesn't hurt...I ice it. lol That pain was severe, and made me paranoid enough to bother keeping up with all of the preventative treatments. Hope you feel better soon!!!! Ice cups work way better than ice packs or bags of frozen peas, btw. Direct icing is the only way to go with this pain. I wrote about them last year. Here's a link to the post:

  2. You are more than aware of my woes! The only thing, i mean the only thing, that got me through that marathon was my massage therapist and a couple of physiotherapy sessions. We did some ART and all of my sessions were extremely painful. I did certain stretches and exercises everyday-foam rolling stinks, but had to be done. There was improvement before the marathon, so know that it can be fixed if you put the effort in. Too much running and not enough strength and cross training led to my injury.

    I confess that since the marathon i dropped everything because i was so bitter and in SO MUCH PAIN. My knees felt like they were going to fall apart for weeks after that. I know i could have spent these last few months rehabbing everything, but have done nothing! And now that i'm pregnant i don't feel comfortable running so i can't even start over until the fall.


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