Iliotibial band pain is one of the most common ailments experienced among runners. Athletes and exercisers who spend an exceptional amount of time pounding pavement run the risk of increased inflammation in the area because of constant rubbing of the band against certain parts of the knee joint and repeated flexion and extension of the knee.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, IT band syndrome is most frequently experienced by runners who increase the intensity and volume of their training too quickly and it can also be caused by excessive striding and downhill running, which causes a greater impact to the body because of decreased knee flexion.
Recovering from IT band pain starts with finding the cause of the injury, which involves reviewing your current training program, looking out especially for extreme spikes in volume and intensity. The ACSM recommends that athletes never increase intensity or volume by more than 5-10% each week.
Other things to take into consideration include past injuries, your running technique (foot strike, cadence, and body orientation), your running shoes, and core strength. If possible, it’s helpful to have all of these factors analyzed by a professional like a running coach or personal trainer.
When IT Band inflammation is present the ACSM recommends resting until the pain subsides and returning to activity at a slow, gradual pace only as tolerated. If you feel pain while running try switching to other low-impact activities like cycling or swimming to maintain your aerobic endurance and prevent further injury.
Preventing and recovering from an IT band injury includes implementing a balanced training plan that takes into consideration your goals and needs as an athlete. For most runners this will entail strengthening the core, improving running technique, and remembering to incorporate at least one rest day every week.
The ACSM recommends the following 5 exercises for preventing and recovering from IT Band pain.
Exercise One: The Step-down
Stand on an even elevated surface, like the edge of a step or gym box. Extend your right leg so that it will hang over the edge of the surface, then using your left leg, very slowly squat down. Make sure to keep the weight in your left heel and engage your core to keep your spine straight. Return to the starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps on each leg.
Exercise Two: Hip Abduction
Start standing tall with feet hip-width-distance apart. Slowly lift your right leg up and away from your body. Hold it out to the side for 1-2 seconds and then return to the starting position letting your right leg hover just above the floor before repeating the next rep. Repeat 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps on each leg, remembering to engage your core for balance and keeping your hips, knees, and heels aligned.
Exercise Three: Wobble Board Stabilization
Using just one leg, balance in the center of a Wobble Board for 20 to 90 seconds. Repeat for 3 sets on each leg. (Progression: perform the step-down exercise on the wobble board.)
Exercise Four: Posterior Chain Stretch
Position yourself on the floor near a wall and then raise your legs up so that the entire lower half of your body (from your butt to your heels) is flat against the wall and your back is flat on the floor. Lift your arms up above your head so that your fingers point towards the wall at the opposite end of the room and flex your feet so that your toes point towards your hips. Breathe deeply while holding the stretch for 3 sets of 30 seconds.
Exercise 5: IT-Band Stretch:
With your left shoulder facing a wall, stand about one arm-length’s distance away with your feet about hip-width-distance apart. Place your left hand on the wall and cross your left leg in front of the right. Using the wall as support, slowly bend your left elbow so that your body will lean to the left slightly. Breathe deeply while holding the stretch for 3 sets of 30 seconds on each side.