Iliotibial Band Syndrome or ITBS is common among runners. Starting with minor pain and tightness along the lateral leg from the hip and more commonly the knee. ITBS (if caught early) can be treated by stretching and strengthening, but left untreated, and the pain can become debilitating to the point where running may have to be stopped all together.
The traditional view on the cause of this injury has focused on the tightness of the structure and overtraining. There is no doubt that the ITB will become tighter when it is injured. The tightness, however, is more than likely a result of the injury and not the actual cause.
The ITB is not a strong structure, and if the surrounding muscles have any weakness that can lead to injury and ITB syndrome. Runners are notoriously weak in their hip and core muscles, particularly if strength training or participation in sports that involve side-to-side movement are lacking.
Injured runners tend to have significantly weaker hip abductors (mainly gluteus medius and minimus) than non-injured runners.
If you are experiencing ITBS and it continues to progress even after stretching and strengthening, it may be time to consult with a physician and or began physical therapy. If these stretches and strengthening techniques do help, it is very important to continue even after the pain completely subsides. More times than not, the pain will come back.
Here are some simple stretching and strengthening techniques that can help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or help prevent ITBS all together.
Foam rollers and rolling sticks are inexpensive and can usually be purchased at your local running store.
• Roll your injured leg over the foam roller. If a certain spot is found that is clearly tighter, try to hold that spot for up to several seconds and make sure you breath. If you’re not used to rolling and find it too intense, you can try straightening your arm, this will take a little pressure off the injured leg.
• Another way is, to lay on your side and have someone roll you with a rolling stick, just be sure to let them know how much pressure you can take. Add more time gradually each day to help mobilize your tissues and break up scar tissue.
IT Band Stretch #1
Cross your good leg over the injured leg and try to reach the inside ankle of the injured leg. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat up to 3 times.
IT Band Stretch #2
Stand with injured leg next to a wall, push the hip of your injured leg toward the wall and your shoulders the opposite way. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat up to 3 times.
Strengthen Hips and Glutes
Put an elastic band around both ankles for resistance. Get in a squating position with your knees bent and butt back, keep your chest and head up (like playing defense in basketball). Start with feet shoulder width apart and take 4 – 6 steps left and back to the right, down and back 2 – 4 times. If you feel it in your lower quad or knee, re-position yourself to where you feel it in glutes and hips. Repeat up to 3 times.
Another easy and effective way to strengthen the hips and glutes is to move laterally at an incline such as on a treadmill or hill. Put a treadmill at a steep incline and get in the same position as above. Try moving sideways by pushing off the outside leg. Start slow until you get the hang of it by putting the speed no higher than 2.0 mph, then adjust as you go. To start with, try 30 seconds each way.
If lateral movements with resistance or at an incline cause pain in the knee, or you simply don’t have access to either, you can try pushing your leg out and into a wall. Push for 5 seconds and then relax up to 10 times on each leg.
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