Where is the IT band?
The Iliotibial Band is a rigid tissue that inserts up at the glutes and continues down on the leg, on the exterior side, towards the knee. It ends bellow the knee.
What Causes Iliotibial band syndrome?
The lack of elasticity is the problem so stretching it during the pre-run warm up is a must. You need that because when you run there is a chance you will stretch it more than is used to and that will cause tears. Warming up will help your body be more prepared for your running.
If you get tears in the IT Band, there will be inflammation and ultimately sharp pain. That is how you know you suffer from the Iliotibial Band Syndrome. But don’t worry, your body will try patching those tears. The problem with that is that these patches, depending how many and how big they are, will rub against your knee joint so during rehab you need to be consistent with the exercises your physiotherapist recommends you.
How long does IT band take to heal?
If you do a full break with no running at all for a couple of weeks (I rested for 2 weeks), the pain will go away but when you are back at it, the pain will eventually surface depending on the distance you run, how fast you run and more importantly how big is your stride. It did flared back for me after my 2 weeks break so just resting won’t work with this injury.
I’m no doctor but for me is crystal clear that my strides are the key along with the distance. Of course is much more than just strides. Think of vibrations, torsion, running form and so on and so forth. But the strides are the key.
Big strides = big IT Band stretches = big risk of tears. Low strides = low IT Band stretches = low risk of tears.
It may take weeks or months to heal. Without proper care it might never get healed 100%. It depends on age, level of fitness, rehab workouts, how the injury occurred (if it was due to a mistake or if it came gradually in time), etc.
How do I fix my IT band?
Working the glutes so they are more active in running and stretching the superior leg, especially the IT Band side. The whole idea is to keep the IT Band as flexible as possible and get stronger glutes. IT Band is a tendon so it doesn’t have any elasticity but keeping it in good shape is crucial. When you jump of a rock or when you overtake another runners, you increase your stride. Train properly so you don’t run into issues.
This is what I do (requires an elastic band):
1. Standing sideways, leg swings with the elastic band. 12 x 3 sets.
2. On hands and knees with the elastic band around my knees: one fire hydrant, one back bent knee, one back up straight. 5 x 3 sets
You can do 3 things:
1. google IT Band stretches and follow a set of exercises
2. develop your exercises following a simple plan – whatever stretches your exterior side of the legs and gives a good workout to the glutes, that is a great warm up and will help tremendously your IT Band
3. do what I do
Aging affects it. Like any other tissue in body, the IT Band is affected by the age. I’m over 40 and while I wasn’t sold on this idea years ago, I am convinced now, runners over 40 need a proper warm up before running and races. If you run with a group and you don’t want stretching with them, arrive ahead of time and do your warm up before they show up. That’s my plan.
This is what I do to fix my IT Band so I can get back at running ASAP:
- I run mostly alone for a while; piers pressure is not good for me as I am competitive and will try overtake anyone I run with. It’s a no-no.
- Stretching before run and after run; 10-15 min should do it
- running slower, currently close to 6 min per km
- running a slower distance, currently 3-4 km
- lowering my strides, basically more steps per distance
- exercising my glutes and my legs with emphasis on the IT Band whenever is possible; I found myself doing it when I watch TV, works perfect!
Whatever you do, don’t over do it. I rough warm up will cause more issues with your IT Band. Increase the warm up time and the daily exercises complexity over time. Don’t force it.
Thank god it’s fall. I would have hated myself should this have happened in the spring before the running season. But it’s time to relax and take it easy. Long cold weather ahead so for me and probably for you (except if you leave in Australia) is a great time to do some cross-fit workouts and go for slow and shorter runs. I will be back by spring at the level of running I was before my IT Band start giving me trouble. So, do you.
Good luck! See you on the trail!