In our first installment of the AMR Traveling TriggerPoint Ultimate 6 Kit, we tackled Plantar Fasciitis. In this round, Denise Dollar, a 46-year-old mother runner with two kids, gets some relief for her Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).
What IT Band Syndrome is: ITBS is a running-induced injury that is best described as pain in the outside of the knee. Not a muscle, but rather thick fascia, the Iliotibial Band extends from the outside of the hip to below the knee, and as such, it’s a vital player in the functioning of those of those joints. The IT Band helps flex, extend, and stabilize your knee during foot strike, and those responsibilities, combined with continual rubbing across the across the bottom corner of your femur, can cause it to become inflamed.
On a scale of 1 (a hangnail) to 10 (hospitalization required), I would rate this injury as an: 8. It stopped me dead in my tracks around mile seven of my first half-marathon. After that, I felt mentally blocked and had a hard time asking for help and moving forward at all with running.
What causes it: Because the IT Band runs extends from above your hip to below your knee, IT Band Syndrome can have a variety of causes; thank you, muscular kinetic chain, in which everything from your toe tendons to your abs is somehow connected. Hips that are both tight and weak, a common occurrence among female runners, can definitely contribute. Typical training errors—running too much too soon, doing too many intense workouts, letting your form lapse on long runs, running on continually on roads with a severe cant—can also play a part. Running in shoes that aren’t right for you may also cause your IT Band to bark. (More causes? Watch this TriggerPoint flick: Misconceptions of IT Bands.)
I didn’t stretch my hips or any part of my lower body, really. I didn’t have the right shoes, and looking back, I didn’t have a solid foundation from which to train for a half-marathon. I ran too much too soon.
What it feels like physically: It’s like someone is stabbing a knife into the outside of my knee; the pain is so intense, it’s hard to put any pressure on the leg. It typically flares up around mile 6 or 7 into a run. The good news is that I’ve never noticed it when I’m not running.
You might have it if: You have an imaginary knife going through the outside of your knee. (Although the IT Band is a long band of fascia, the pain usually materializes at the knee.) Initially, it only hurts when you are running, and although the spot around your knee may be tender, there’s usually minimal swelling involved. Runner’s World says, “The best way to tell if you have ITBS is to bend your knee at a 45-degree angle. If you have an IT band problem, you'll feel pain on the outside of the knee.”
What and how to roll: I rolled 10-15 minutes every day, regardless if I ran. I always rolled before running and tried to get to it after as well. Twice a week, I rolled for 30 minutes. (I really want to kick ITBS to the curb!) I really liked the piriformis moves with the massage ball; releasing my glutes seems to gently ask my IT Band to loosen up a bit. I used a more gentle roller directly on my IT Band, which can bring tears to my eyes but ultimately brings relief.
How I coped mentally: It took me a while to get back to running after my first half-marathon. After my second half, when I was still struggling with my IT Band issues, I took a break from longer distances while I trained for a century [100-mile bike ride]. I was still running, but I was going shorter distances and thankfully, I wasn’t having any pain.
But I wanted to get back to running longer distances and had a hard time getting past that mental block, continuing to think of mile 6-7 as painful. Once I was armed with help and stretches from my PT and the knowledge that I had to take care of my IT Band regularly in order to keep going strong, I felt better about tackling longer runs. With additional therapy work with the Ultimate 6 kit, I got past the 6-7 mile mark without pain and I now feel more confident. I really had to learn—and, honestly, I continue to learn—about what running is for me, how to listen to my body and to address issues when they come up and not let them derail me, mentally or physically.
How I'll avoid it in the future: Releasing and stretching the muscles in and around the IT Band, espeically the hips and the piriformis, is the biggest conduit for a comfortable run. Strengthening them is huge too; here are some exercises that’ll keep you solid and stable. Taking a few days off when I feel it flaring up—instead of trying to run through it—can also reset it.
Anything we missed? How did you cope, both mentally and physically, with a bout of IT Band Syndrome that is (fingers crossed) in your past?
And do you have an injury that could benefit from the AMR Traveling Ultimate 6 Kit? Email us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll see if the Kit can make a stop at your mother runner house. (We have received a bunch of entries, and are slowly combing through them, so if you have already emailed us, we'll be in touch asap.)