If you’re training for a marathon, half marathon, or 5K, you’ve most likely encountered a few aches and pains along the way. Most of this is relatively normal, as you push your body out of its comfort zone. However, there are certain injuries that can put a wrinkle in your training. Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and medical director at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, talks about IT band syndrome, a common yet often-painful condition that affects runners.
IT Band Anatomy
The iliotibial (IT) band is a tight band of tissue that connects the butt muscles to the knee. When it’s too tight, it can literally cause friction either at the top of your hip or down by your knee. Overuse of this group of muscles can often lead to IT band syndrome, which is sometimes referred to as hip bursitis. Patients will often stay their hip hurts, but when they point to where it hurts it’s directly on the side of their leg.
Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome
With IT band syndrome or hip bursitis, patients will sometimes complain of their hip feeling hot and red. It may be sore to the touch on the side of their hip bone. Also, they might have an actual clicking or rubbing feeling on the side of their knee. It can be very painful, and will most likely hurt more if you try to run through it.
Prevention Exercises for IT Band Syndrome
One of the ways you can help prevent IT band syndrome is by strengthening your rear end. This can be done by slowing down every single step you take, lengthening the IT band. There are a wide variety of exercises for strengthening your rear, such as the monster walk or runner’s lunges. An easy and effective way to stretch your IT band is to use a foam roller. Every runner should have this exercise tool, which can help you stay on the road and out of the doctor’s office.
In addition to strengthening your rear end and lengthening the IT band, there are many holistic ways to decrease general inflammation in the body. Runners can try omega-3 fish oil, which has been shown to be effective in lowering inflammation. If you prefer to drink a supplement, try tart cherry juice.
Whether you’re an elite athlete or just starting out, icing those sore body parts is also very important. But when the pain persists and you’ve tried other options, use over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications. However, be sure to consult your doctor if your IT band injury gets too painful to handle and is holding back your training.