Hip aches, knee pain, constant discomfort, the list goes on and on. If you have IT Band Syndrome (iliotibial band), you know exactly what I’m talking about. That nagging pain that occurs after a run or a hard leg day is so frustrating when all you want to do is have fun and be active!
The iliotibial band is a tendon that connects the tensor fascia lata muscle (the muscle on the outer side of the hip) to the outer side of the tibia (the major bone in the lower leg). Pain usually occurs in the knee or the hip or both. According to triathloncompetitor.com, “a small, fluid-filled sac called a bursa sits between the tendon and the outside of the femur near the knee and one at the hip joint.” When the ITB is tight, it increases the tension on the outer sides of the hip and knee. The ITB then pinches these two sites and the bursa (one or both) swells. Eventually, the bursa enlarges and hurts every time you begin to run.
Here are 4 ways to find relief:
1. Foam roller. This has been the most effective way to relieve my IT Band aggravation. Lie on your side on the roller and roll back and forth across your IT Band (hip to knee). It will hurt at first, but the pressure of the foam roller massages the tightness right out of the area. (photo credit here)
2. Ice. When you have an IT Band flare-up, apply an ice pack to the area. This will minimize inflammation and bring some relief.
3. Stretch. Here are a couple of good stretches to take away the pain and pressure: (a) Sit on the edge of your couch, bench, or chair and rest ankle on opposite thigh. Apply downward pressure on top thigh. Hold for as long as you are comfortable. (b) triathloncompetitor.com also recommends the lying glute stretch: Lie face-up on the floor with your knees and hips bent. Cross your right leg over your left so that your right ankle sits across your left thigh. Grab your right knee with both hands and pull it toward the middle of your chest until you feel a comfortable stretch in your glutes.
4. Strengthen. I have found that my IT Band does not flare up nearly as much as it used to when I would run more than strength train. Since I have increased my strength training, my IT Band only occasionally hurts. Concentrate on some good lower body training exercises like squats to make your hips, glutes and legs stronger. Also incorporate multi-directional lunges as well as side-steps with a mini resistance band placed just above your knees. All of these exercises will increase strength, which also means fewer IT Band issues in the future.