6 years ago I completed the Jay Mountain Marathon. As my first race it was to be the beginning of my running career. I was hooked and vowed to train harder and get faster.
The hiccup, that I ignored then, and continued to ignore for the next 5 years was the acute pain that developed in my left knee after a run. In fact after the race I did could not walk for a few days without a pitiful limp. The start of every season brought the same symptoms, brought on by over-enthusiasm, and inadequate preparation. Midway through last spring the story took a turn for the worse when the pain became so severe that I could not walk stairs or even climb into bed without cringing.
Since then I have had MRI’s, x-rays, yoga, creams, sprays tried every stretch and exercise imaginable. Having started to take my injury more seriously I have learned a few lessons along the way.
- The nagging pain was a consequence of my IT band rubbing against my knee joint, causing irritation and swelling.
- IT band problems are really hip problems, before they are knee problems. IT bands are bands of collagen that are as flexible as steel cables. They can stretch over time, but it is a lot easier to gain a little length in the muscles that they attach to in the hip area than it is to gain length over the length of the IT band.
- Weak abdominal muscles are often to blame to IT band injuries. Weak cores cause poor running form which can stress the IT band.
- If you have had a persistent IT problem, you might not get much from just stretching. Years of over-used will often require physical manipulation (massage) to loosen the muscles again.
- Time off, isn’t the solution. At least not in my case. I have taken as much as 8 months off, and had pain days after starting to run again. Taking enough time off for the swelling and irritaion to go down can be helpful, but beyond that, you need a more active approach that involves other sports, massage, stetching and eventually strengthening.
The best advice I got was from Doc Fullem, who aside from being a board certified podiatrist, has run a 14.25 5k. He specializes in running injuries, particularly IT band syndrome. His website has loads of helpful solutions for IT band challenged runners.
My IT band struggles are not quite over, but I am confident for the first time in years that I am making real progress. I think the key for me is going to be a combination of stretching, deep tissue massage, and strengthening.
Hope that help a struggling runner out there somewhere!
Tags: IT Band Syndrome