Iliotibial Band Syndrome Signs and Causes

Signs, Causes, Solutions and the Treat & Train Approach for Distance Runners with IT Band Syndrome

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IT Band Syndrome or ITBS) is an overuse injury common among endurance athletes. IT Band Syndrome is one of the most common culprits of pain in distance runners.

Most Common Signs that you may have IT Band Syndrome

  • Knee Pain – The most typical area of pain for Iliotibial Band Syndrome is in the knees
  • Hip Pain – Iliotibial Band Syndrome can also cause pain in the hip area.

The Main Causes of IT Band Syndrome

The #1 cause of Iliotibial Band Syndrome is Unintelligent Run Training. I like to refer to IT Band Syndrome as Idiotic Training BS because it often occurs amongst runners who do not train intelligently, know that they are training unintelligently, and then BS to themselves about the reality of the situation. BE HONEST, PEOPLE!

So what is Unintelligent Run Training?

  1. Not having a goal-specific run training program. Whether you are racing or not, a structured plan will help you stay injury-free.
  2. Not strength training specifically for your running goals. Remember, the purpose of this is to strengthen your running muscles to allow you to progress with your run training without injury.
  3. Not following through with your customized plan. You can have the greatest coach and plan in the world yet sabotage both by being defiant and trying to mix and match multiple programs.
  4. Not rolling/stretching regularly. Foam rolling and stretching is a lifestyle. It is not something that you do only when you are not feeling well or just before a big race. Foam rolling and stretching, preferably in that order, is a way to prevent injuries and is crucial to any runner’s training program. Massages are synonymous with foam rolling.
  5. Not thinking. You can have the greatest training plan and insights and then not follow through with it and/or apply it to your life. Learn from this blog post and then apply it to your run training, racing, and athletic maintenance. Treat your body well. It deserves it!

Solutions to your IT Band Syndrome

Intelligent Run Training

  • Invest in a customized run training plan.
  • Ask your running coach, hopefully a certified trainer, to provide strength training exercises and progressions.
  • Follow your training program exactly as written, what all successful runners have in common.

Correct Muscle Imbalances

The gluteus maximus and gluteus medius attach to your IT band. When these muscles work, they pull on your IT band and keep your hips and knees aligned. However, if your glutes are not strong, your hips and knees can twist. This triggers the IT band to rub over underlying tissue and cause pain on the outside of your knee and/or hip.

Just Do It

  • Enough said!

Daily Athletic Maintenance

  • Foam roll and stretch every day. Stretch the IT Band and all of the muscles around it. As demonstrated in several studies, deep-tissue massage before stretching allows for more rapid length gains. Aggressive massages break up the scar tissue. Massage promotes blood flow to the affected area and can minimize scar tissue formation either by a professional or self-massage using a foam roller or massage stick. Don’t worry if you get sore. Massage, foam roll, and even cross-train before stretching
  • Ice down after workouts. Freeze a water bottle and roll your IT Band (and surrounding areas) with it after training. Roll the side of your leg all of the way up to the hip and hold where it hurts.
  • Eat well and focus on your dark green leafy veggies.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Get quality sleep.
  • Listen to your body.

Healthy and injury-free athletes take care of their bodies every day. It is especially important to foam roll, stretch, ice, and let your body recover on the days immediately following a hard workout and/or a race.

Think Before You Do Something

  • Road Running – Stop running on the same side of the street. Switch up where on the street you are running. Run on the inside of the road, the middle of the road, and the outside of the road. By doing so, the same leg is not always on the downhill/uphill side.
  • Track Running – Stop always running on a track in the same direction. Run the same number of laps clockwise as you do counterclockwise. If your track doesn’t allow this, find a new track.
  • Uphill Running – Stop running so much on undulations. Run most of your mileage on flat, soft surfaces.
  • Crossover Running – Stop running with a crossover stride. Don’t bring the forward foot across the centerline when running.

The Treat & Train Approach

If running is not too painful, I believe ITBS is ok to treat and continue to train. Exercise can promote blood flow and be beneficial to the healing process. It is best to scale back the intensity and duration until the inflammation subsides. If running hurts too much, stick to the elliptical or stationary bike.

If you decide to follow the Treat & Train Approach, please remember that you may have to take some time off and reevaluate your run training program. If you are training unintelligently, you will have to start training intelligently to solve your IT Band Syndrome once and for all.

Running Scientist Secret Formula:

Intelligent Training + Daily Athletic Maintenance = Your Ability To Maximize Your Chances of Achieving All of Your Distance Running Goals WITHOUT Iliotibial Band Syndrome