One of the most common and easy to identify running injuries is IT band syndrome. The iliotibial (IT) band is a piece of connective tissue running from the hip to the outside of the knee. The purpose of the IT band is to help stabilize the leg when it is in motion. When injured, the IT band typically causes pain at the insertion point on the outside of the knee. Because this injury can worsen so quickly, it is imperative that you deal with it immediately.
IT band syndrome is usually caused by weak hips or glutes. When these muscles are not strong enough to properly support the pelvis, the pelvis tugs on the IT band which is then pulled away from the knee, causing pain. Because of this, recovering from IT band syndrome requires the runner to stretch and strengthen her glutes and hips.
To begin, there is a common IT band stretch that will lightly loosen the muscles around the band. From a standing position cross the uninjured leg over the front of the injured leg. Lightly reach towards the inside of the foot of the injured leg (for example, if the IT band on your right leg is injured, cross your left leg over your right and reach to the left side of the foot of your right leg). You should feel a stretch on the outside of the hip of the injured leg. This will help relieve tension on the knee.
In addition to stretching, IT band syndrome requires strengthening the weak upper leg muscles that led to injury. Here are several exercises that will help treat IT band syndrome and prevent a future reoccurrence.
- Clamshells: This exercise is done by laying on your side on the ground. Slide a resistance band around your legs so that it sits just above your knees. Bend your legs at the knee and pull your legs up so your thighs are perpendicular to your torso. Now you will open and close your knees, keeping your feet together, in a motion that resembles a clam opening and closing. Once again, make sure to go slow, maintaining control against the resistance band. Do 2 sets of 15 repeats on each side.
- Crab walk with resistance band: Put a resistance band around your ankles, stand with your legs hip-length apart, bend your knees so you are in a squatting position and walk sideways (while maintaining your squat)... Make sure to keep your feet facing forward and move both your lead leg and trail leg slowly (do not let your trail leg snap back into position). Do 2 sets of 15 steps in both directions.
- Straight leg raises on side: Lie down on your side and lift your leg up, being sure not to bend the knee. Go slowly rather than shooting your leg towards the sky. Do 2 sets of 15-20 leg raises on each side.
- Bridge: Lie on your back and bring your feet towards your butt so your legs form a 45-degree angle. Lift your butt off the ground. Focus on engaging your glute muscles. Hold for 2-3 seconds then lower yourself. Complete 2-3 sets of 15 repeats.
- Squats: Just normal body weight squats. Focus on engaging your glutes.
Fitzgerald, J. (2015, March 22). "10 Exercises to treat IT Band Syndrome." Competitor. Retrieved from http://running.competitor.com/2015/03/injury-prevention/10-exercises-to-treat-it-band- syndrome_125083
Roe, Dan. "The Definitive Guide to Banishing IT Band Pain for Good." Outside. Retrieved from https://www.outsideonline.com/2142646/definitive-guide-banishing-it-band-pain-good