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How Can Runners Avoid IT Band Pain

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Would you agree to the fact that every runner needs to stay fit and active while taking care to avoid injury at all costs? Yes, you would definitely agree! A leg injury is the last thing that a runner would want his life! A common injury that plagues long distance runners is the IT Band Syndrome, affecting the flexibility of gluteal muscles from the hip till outside the knee. To avoid it, hip strengthening is important and exercise can work wonders. However, we give you a complete insight on how to avoid, treat the IT band pain. Take a look!

Picture yourself as a passionate runner who can never get enough of the adrenaline rush that accompanies a perfect finish to the stop line. You feel pumped up leaving behind a trail of fellow racers. Awesome feeling, isn’t it? The go-getter runner in you does not like to stop with one win and is always keen on continuing his winning streak till your stamina levels can support.

For an athlete, steering clear of injuries and it’s painful manifestations is critical at every juncture. If you experience sharp pain in any part of your body, it is an indication that something is wrong.

The Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome has been a common source of pain forcing runners to stop in their tracks, and the sad news is that it often takes months for them to recover completely from the injury. However, it is best to be proactive and prevent IT Band Syndrome altogether. First, you need to know what ITBS is all about, its common causes, symptoms of IT band syndrome and how it is diagnosed. Read about IT Band pain in a nutshell.

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What is IT Band Syndrome

Before we talk about the injury of the IT band, it is essential to know what the IT band is?

IT band pain
IT band pain

IT band is a thick, fibrous band of connective tissue that starts near the hips and runs down the outside of the thigh. Starting from the gluteal muscles and tensor fasciae latae, it goes down to just below the knee. When the Iliotibial band is under stress, it manifests itself in the form of pain on the outer region of the knee.

The function of the IT band is to stabilize the knee, and when the muscles connected to this band feel restricted, it causes tension on the band, resulting in compression on the knee.

Location of the IT band and the Region it affects

IT band pain
IT band syndrome

When diagnosing knee pain, ITBS may often be confused with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) but you need to identify the exact site of the pain to know which of the two conditions it falls under. If you experience pain on the side, it is IT band pain because PFPS causes pain on the knee front, under or around the knee cap.

So figure out where exactly is your pain and then move ahead for its treatment.

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

Now that we are talking about IT Band syndrome, you may wonder, why do runners suffer from IT Band pain? And what are the causes of it? Well, you would know all about as you scroll.

IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that endurance athletes usually go through due to their running schedules. Another cause of this extremely painful syndrome is when the muscles in the hips or along the side of the leg are too tight.

Here is the problem– while the pain may show itself on your knees, usually even the hips can need a lot of attention because the muscles around this region are connected with each other. But worry not, below mentioned are the causes of IT band pain:

1. Training Errors

An error in training can disrupt your life!

Training errors can make runners develop symptoms of this syndrome. If the runner constantly runs on one side of the road, he may develop leg-length discrepancy. The body tilts awkwardly and one leg is always downhill without you being consciously aware. Sadly, this is a major contributor to ITBS among runners.

IT band pain

2. Weak Hip Muscles

Having severe hip pain? You could suffer from weak hip muscles. It may also result in IT band syndrome.

When these muscles are weak, it can cause breakdown due to prolonged running. This adds to stress on the knee tissues. Your running posture may also contribute to problems in your IT band and a professional gait analysis becomes necessary. Taking very long steps that cross over the body’s midline can be subtle to notice but these can result in ITBS.

IT band pain
Weak Hip Muscles

3. Worn out Shoes

Runners, it is time to dispose of your favorite running shoes, that you have worn for years.

Worn out shoes can make your foot land at problematic angles. Such awkward angles can put stress along the knee and hip regions and in some cases lead to ITBS. And we bet, you don’t want to hurt your knee, hip regions. You should check the different types of shoes that a runner must invest in.

IT band pain
Worn out Shoes

4. Stiff Muscles

A word of caution: too much of running can make your leg muscles sore or stiff. And stiff muscles, tissues can easily lead to the unbearable IT band pain. Moreover, due to these stiff muscles, you would not only have an aching pain in your knee but even in your hips.

IT band pain
Stiff Muscles

Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome

How to know that you are a victim of IT band syndrome? Well, let’s help you with the symptoms.

The major symptom of Iliotibial band syndrome is pain that manifests itself between the hip and knees and worsens with activity.

You feel a ripping pain as the IT band snaps back and forth over the point of the hip. The pain will usually disappear when the band is stretched out or made more flexible. Let’s also inform you that the region also experiences swelling that will not subside with simple remedies and will need medical and physical attention. Tenderness is usually present outside of the knee and it pains when you press against this region.

IT band pain
Knee Pain

If you are thinking how this condition is diagnosed, the thumb rule is to bend the knee at a 45-degree angle and if your IT band has a problem, you will feel a pain in the outer region of the knee. For a more accurate diagnosis, you can always resort to an MRI, which will indicate if there is partial thickening of the band.

Prevention of IT Band Pain

So what’s the solution to this aching IT band pain?

Well, let’s answer that for you.

You can take some do-it-yourself treatments to avoid going through the IT band syndrome.

And we have listed super easy prevention methods that would keep IT band at bay:

  • Did you just experience a trace of pain on the outside of the knee? Then we suggest you reduce your mileage and rest for a few days.
  • Never forget to walk for a quarter to half of a mile before beginning your freedom filled run.
  • To keep your legs balanced in height, make sure you run in the middle of the road where the surface is flat and not undulating.
  • Run on traffic free roads so that you can run comfortably and never worry of IT band pain.
  • Want an easy solution from IT band pain? Then say goodbye to your worn out shoes! Please!
  • Remember never to run on concrete surfaces. If you are running on a track, ensure that you change directions all the time.

Exercises for IT Band Pain

Now we bring a good news! A cure for IT band pain! If you can strengthen your weak hip abductors like the smaller muscle located on the side of the hip or gluteus (known as gluteus medius), you can avoid an injury to your IT band during long runs.

Here’s a quick look at some exercises you can do for boosting the strength of your gluteus medius.

1. Clamshells

This is an easy exercise that would ease your throbbing pain in no time.

Lie on your right with knees bent at an angle of 90-degree from your upper body. Keep the feet together and open and close your legs like a clamshell by using your glutes slowly. Make sure you do controlled movements and do not rock the pelvis during this movement. 20 to 30 repetitions on each side should be good enough at one time.

IT band pain

2. Side Leg Raise

Lie on your right keeping both the legs straight. Raise the left leg to 45 degrees slowly and then lower it down. Repeat this on each side 20 to 30 times.

IT band pain
Side Leg Raise

3. Side Hip Bridge

Lie on the side leaving a distance of one to two feet between your feet and the ground. Keeping your feet elevated, lift your torso by using the hip muscles. Do not let your spine move. Lower the torso slowly and try doing 10 to 30 repetitions on each side.

IT band pain
Side Hip Bridge

4. Hip Hike

Want a quick solution to subside your pain? Then try the hip hike exercise.

Stand on your right foot. Keeping pelvis in a neutral position, drop the left side some inches lower than the right side of the pelvic bone. Then, make use of your right hip muscle to bring the left side back to the neutral position. 10 to 30 repetitions on each side every day will strengthen your hip. You can indulge in the 6 hip strengthening exercises which are highly recommended for the runners.

IT band pain
Hip Hike

5. Pistol Squat

Wondering how to treat your IT band pain? Then go for the runner’s famous exercise the Pistol squat. Also known as the one legged squat, this exercise works on your hips, hamstrings, gluteus, calves. Firstly stand straight with your spine erect and then squat down such that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Make sure you perform this exercise gradually. Repeat this for 10 times and then gradually increase it.

IT band pain
Pistol Squat

6. Hip Thrust

Lie on your back maintaining your weight on the upper back between your shoulder blades and feet. You can cross your arms over your chest or keep them on the sides. Bring the hip down almost to ground level and thrust it upward using your glutes and pushing the heels to the ground. Try keeping the pelvis stable and repeat it 20 to 30 times.

IT band pain
Hip Thrust

7. Side Shuffle

Keep your knees bent like you are doing squats and take ten steps to one side. Now stay facing where you are and take the next ten steps back to where you started to complete a set. Do 3 to 5 of such sets.

IT band pain
Side Shuffle

8. Reavy Method

This method, created by David Reavy, is a complete body approach to exercise and physical therapy. It focuses on working on your entire body and not the site of injury alone. Hip flexor release, glute max release, vastus lateralis release and inner thigh squats are some workouts that will restore balance in your body and strengthen the muscles in the IT band.

Runners, you need to take special care to prevent the occurrence of IT band syndrome. If it occurs once, it requires a lot of rest and exercise to make your IT band strong again. Managing pain is not the solution if the muscles are not strong and well-supported. Building strong muscles around the hip and thigh region is essential.

If you are a runner, it’s time to become proactive and start working on building your gluteal strength. If you don’t want an injury layoff for months, the right time to start is NOW!

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