The IT Band, formally known as the Illiotibial band, and the issues associated with it are no stranger to most runners. In chatting with running friends lately though, it seems that many people either don't know: 1. What it is or; 2. How to fix it.
So what is the IT band?
The IT band begins in the hip as the tensor fascia latae muscle and has attachments at the origin from three different muscles: the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and vastus lateralis. The muscle becomes a fibrous band of tissue as it progresses down the thigh, then crosses the knee joint, and inserts along the outside portion of the patella, or knee cap, and into the shin bone.
For me, IT band pain doesn't feel like muscle pain. It seethes deep inside the bone, or at least it feels like it does; reverberates throughout the leg with impact, spanning from my outer knee to my upper glut. Sounds fun right? Yea, it's not. It's especially unfun when you're training for a distance run and this fiery pain prevents you from reaching your goals, training or really doing much of anything.
The standard advice for athletes facing this persistent problem is, you guessed it, the dreaded foam roller. It's my vice and yours. It hurts- and not in a good way but it is indeed one of the best ways to deep condition the muscles in your IT area, to loosen up for the love of god. IT band pain is an injury of progression and by that I mean if you don't cool it, it's gonna get worse. That being said, be smart about your pain. Listen to your body and fix the problem before it escalates.
Simply put there are 3 phases of recovery for IT band issues:
- Stop Running
- Start Stretching/Foam Rolling. Then move to ice and gradually, side leg lifts with exercise bands are recommended.
- When you're feeling better, move onto non/low impact exercise (try spinning, yoga or the elliptical). When running is back on the table, run quickly for short periods of time as that tends to aggravate the band less than slow, distance running.