As we work our way through this series, let not forget what we have learned so far.
Iliotibial band syndrome is a common overuse injury plaguing runners of all abilities. The most common offense is trying to increase your volume too soon while also increasing the intensity without cross-training or varying surfaces.
The Iliotibial band DOES NOT STRETCH! The tension we feel is caused by the muscles that support the IT band, Tensor Fascia Latae and Gluteus Maximus.
The stabbing pain we experiences as runners suffering from IT band syndrome is thought to be caused by the band itself shifting forward and backward as the knee flexes and extends. The research is out on that one…if we ever reach a consensus, I will let you all know!
Where are we now? Well…if you have made it this far, you are probably dealing with IT band syndrome and wondering if it will ever go away and let you get back to running the way you would like.
For this, we are going to discuss self-care. What you can do about the knee pain and tight hips at home while also mentioning a few stretches you can do at work or out on a run. Our goal is simple - Allow you to continue to train, modified while improving your IT band syndrome pain week-to-week.
What we are talking about today, where the real work takes place, the day in and day out self-care. And the big question….can you continue training?
SELF CARE PART 1 - START WITH A BETTER WARM-UP
I can not stress this enough! As you are working through an injury, maintaining some kind of load (training volume) is important, but you are better served spending time on a proper warm up, running just a few miles, then spending a good amount of time on the cool down. With just about every running injury we deal with, runners have a dismal warm-up if one at all. Most are so pressed for time, they lace up the shoes, run out the door, only to return and head straight to work. Most of us are not teenagers anymore, our bodies just can’t do this…not for long periods anyway. Start with a thorough warm-up - we will emphasize this again in our next article where we talk rehab and return to running so prepare yourself!
SELF CARE PART 2 - SELF MYOFASCIAL RELIEF
Understanding that foam rolling and stretching of the IT band itself is ineffective, where do we focus our attention? The hips…it is always the hips! But some attention at the knee can be beneficial while appropriate rest and recovery are always suggested after an acute flair-up or long run.
Rest & Recovery:
Traditional pain relievers for running related pain include ice, heat, topical creams like biofreeze, and some good old-fashioned rest. Today we have an array of tools that can aid in recovery, one we like to use frequently are compression boots from Rapid Reboot. We don’t expect everyone just to have these lying around, but they sure feel great after some dry needling, IASTM, and manipulation in the clinic.
Rolling & Stretching:
Now that we understand what anatomy we need to address, it is time to get your roll on! If we are able to continue to train, we suggest rolling and stretching 4-5 times each day. Before you lose it, these sessions are only 3-4 minutes each. If you are a frequent runner, or just starting out, here are the basics.
Rollers should be in your home, office, and car. You should have at least 3 lacrosse balls around, purse, cup holder in your car, in your desk, and your gym bag.
Roll in the morning, pre and post run, after your lunch break, when you get home, and then a good session before bed.
Cupping & Flossing:
These may not be tools accessible to all, but they help you achieve stretching in ways that are difficult to do on your own. One of my personal approaches to provide relief to the knee pain we experience with IT Band syndrome is to place a few cups (I have a few sets of these) around the lateral knee and lateral quadricep muscle, walk about for a few minutes, perform a few squats, rinse and repeat 2-3 times per week.
SELF CARE PART 3 - TRAINING MODIFICATION
Training modification is the hardest part to address. For most, the ability to continue training toward your race is almost as important as fixing the injury. While maintaining some load is ideal, there are instances where a total shut-down is necessary for a few weeks. If you are a typical runner, meaning that you are going to run through the injury, we must modify. Here are the basics. Remember that Iliotibial band syndrome is the result of too much mileage or intensity, too soon in your training plan. Not having a proper base as you head into a 20-week marathon training plan is a recipe for disaster.
Our first suggestion is to cut your volume by 50% and decrease your intensity for the next 2-4 weeks. Our goal is to maintain some running, but the speed work and downhill bombs need to take a backseat for a while.
Please, cross-train! As runners, we think that running is it, period. When we are injured, and more so when we are not so that we can prevent injury, we must cross train. If you have been battling IT band syndrome for more than a few weeks, it is time to work in some biking, swimming and weightlifting. This allows you to maintain most of your cardiovascular capacity while taking out the pounding associated with running.
Lastly, look at your running form. Can it be cleaned up a bit? For most of us, that is a very strong, Yes! I’m not saying to go out and get an extensive running evaluation to change the subtle nuances of your stride, most of us just are not at that level, but shortening your stride, increasing your cadence, and working on your running drills can provide a needed boost in your running efficiency.
Cadence should be upwards of 170-180 steps per minute.
Perform drills on a soft surface (track or field) 2-3 times per week.
More on this in the rehab portion next week.
Dr. Reheisse is a Board Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician practicing in the Greater Salt Lake City Area of Utah. Revive Sport & Spine provides evidence-supported chiropractic care and conservative sports injury management.