Illiotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial Band Syndrome
It's a common runner's injury to the outside of the leg that usually hurts around the knee.  And it sucks. 

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training.  I do, however, have my own experience to share.

At 27 years old, I had been running my whole life and I had never even heard of an IT band.  I had done a few halfs and was training for my first full marathon.  I signed up for a half marathon as a training run and was really excited to get a PR.  I went out fast, but at mile 4 I was frustrated by a large hill on the course.  It really slowed my time down, so I sprinted on the downhill to try to make up time.  That was mistake #1.  Running downhill at a fast pace when I hadn't trained for it was not smart.  Not smart at all.  I felt pain on the outside of my left knee.  Now I'm thinkin', "Hmm, that's weird.  I've never had a pain there before.  Oh well, I'll run through it."   And seriously, at this point a few motivational quotes about pain went through my head (no pain, no gain; pain is temporary, pride is forever; pain is weakness leaving the body; etc.)  So I just kept on running.  That was mistake #2.  Surprise, surprise the pain only got worse as the race went on.  By mile 13 I was a pitiful sight.  Sure, I "ran" the whole race, but for what?  I wasn't even close to a PR and little did I know it at the time, but now I had a serious injury. 

I figured I'd go home, ice my knee, and I'd be good to go in a few days.  Not so.  I went for a short, easy run a few days later and the same pain came back.  Same thing a week later.  Same thing a month later.  My knee would feel fine at home, until about 1/2 mile into my runs, and then I would have to stop immediately.  It always hurt on the outside of my left knee.  Being the stubborn person that I am, it took me a month to admit that I had a problem.  I finally did what any normal person would do...I googled my symptoms.  All signs and symptoms pointed to Illiotibial Band Syndrome.  I could hardly pronounce it at the time.  Most of what I read said to stop running until I didn't have pain anymore.  That was really hard for someone like me.  Not running was not an option.  So I'd wait a few days or a week and then run again, and the pain always came back at about the same point in my run.  It was even uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time because I would start to feel a dull ache in my IT band.  Unfortunately, the damage was already done. 

After a year and a half of virtually no running, I went to a third sports med doctor, who suggested I try ASTYM.  I immediately researched it and was pretty excited that it just might be the thing for me.  Even though the closest certified PT was in the next town an hour away, I started right away.  I went to 2 sessions a week for six weeks.  It was not easy.  It did not feel good.  I had horrible bruising.  But you know what?  After the first week I could already feel a difference.  My leg was no longer achy or nagging.  The PT encouraged me to start running very short distances because it is supposed to help your leg heal the correct way.  By the end of the six weeks I could finally run up to a mile without any pain.  It was truly a miracle! 


I completed my ASTYM in the spring, and by fall I was running 10Ks again.  I was diligent about using my foam roller, stretching and strengthening my hips and glutes, and focusing on good running form.  I began taking ice baths after every long run.  I went to a real running store and finally got the right kind of running shoes for me (Saucony Kinvaras). 
It's been almost 7 years since I first injured it, and I still have some days where it flares up.  But, I have learned how to manage it now.  I have run 2 marathons since then and am training for my 3rd.  There were a few long runs where I stopped 8 miles outside of town and walked home because my IT Band tightened up.  But I always got back out there the next week and finished without any pain. 
Here is a list of the things I tried that helped:
  • Essential Oils (PanAway)
  • 3 sports med doctors
  • 2 physical therapists
  • Foam roller
  • Minimalist shoes (Saucony Kinvara, Newton)
  • Stretches
  • Exercises (clam shells, side leg lifts, etc...)
  • Form drills (running with high knees, etc...)
  • Knee straps
  • Cortisone shot
  • Voltaren Gel
  • Sleeping with a pillow between my knees
  • Personal ultrasound machine
  • Running on flat roads

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