Good morning, everyone! It's a hot and humid day here in the Midwest again - I'm running 5 miles tonight with my running friend, Erin, so we'll sure to get plenty sweaty! Here's to lots of hydration today!
Anyways, on to the subject of today's post. For about a month, I've been having IT band pain (I'll explain what it is in a minute). My brother has had the same issues in the past, so I immediately went to him for suggestions (he's in school for athletic training). Yes, I'm in school for health promotion, BUT we don't get into the specifics on treating pains, etc, because we're more about the entire wellness spectrum rather than sports medicine. So, hence the reason for asking him because I do not know all! ;) I also work in an awesome physical therapy and sports medicine clinic so obvi I asked around there too! Let's get into the scientific stuff for a minute (which I do know about)!
What even is your IT band? Where is it located?
*IT band stands for 'iliotibial band'. A lot of you are probably like, "huh?" Your iliotibial band is a strand of protection like substance that starts at your pelvis and extends to your knee (see picture below). Your IT band helps stablize you while running, but with the constant friction it can also become inflamed. This is actually a very common issue with runners.
How do I know I have IT band pain/issues?
*From my own experience, I can tell you that the pain starts out very subtle. It almost feels like you're just a little sore in the knee area (which is common too with running), but then as time goes on, it becomes worse and starts feeling like a 'jolt' in your knee. I also only noticed the pain when I was walking or running (because that's the only time the IT band is in motion). If nothing is done to help with the pain, eventually your knee can become swollen because of it.
So, how do I treat/prevent it?
*There are many ways to treat IT band pain, so it's not a major issue. Here is a HUGE list of the ways you can start not only treating IT band pain, but also preventing it!
1) Be sure to do an efficient warm-up and cool-down. I personally usually walk to my starting point of running and walk back after doing the run. I make sure I do this to get an adequate warm-up because otherwise I may skip it. Stretching after your run is crucial, too. Even if it's just for 5 minutes, do it!
2) Change up your running route. Running on the same route over and over can be hard on your joints. Also, be sure not to run downhill a ton (especially steep downhill routes) because this is hard on your joints as well by causing your IT bend to bend inward which in return causes a major stretching of the band.
3) Ice after runs (especially long runs). This has helped me SO much! I try to ice after almost every single run I do, no matter the distance. This helps to really give my IT band a nice cooling effect to calm the inflammation. I've noticed significant changes just doing this.
4) Rest. Another crucial thing is to be sure you get at least 1 rest day from running per week. This gives your body adequate time to recover after the wear and tear on the joints. It's also important to take 1 entire rest day (no extreme physical activity) per week as well. Sometimes I'm bad about this, but have realize just how important it is over time.
5) Foam Roll. An excellent way to work out the kinks! My brother has some stretches to show me when I see him next. I'll try to remember to take pictures to share.
6) Strengthen your core. Some of you may be wondering why, but having a strong core promotes strong balance in your body meaning that you are running very smoothly while staying aligned within your body. Work on those abs, people!
7) And finally, IT band pain can also be caused by having imbalances in your overall anatomy and bone structure. This isn't something you can really do much about, but if it gets bad enough, a physical therapist may be in your future. Holler at me if you're in Iowa -- I work for a pretty great company! ;)
Was this helpful? I can't wait to share my stretches with you when I get them (next weekend, folks!)