Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Iliotibial Band

Sorry to bust your bubble, but this will not be a post about the music industry's latest "it" band. (I'm not that cool.) Instead, I shall introduce you to an infamous little muscle that starts at the top of your hip bone, passes by your knee joint and ends at the tip of your tibia. Official name? The iliotibial band (which you probably guessed by now), and sometimes the iliotibial band gets irritated.

If you recall, I went for a 6.88 mile run on Thursday (over the scary bridge) which happened to be the furthest I've gone in about a month or two. So basically I felt it. And if my left iliotibial band could actually speak, it would have said the following around mile five: "Girl, dang! Are you mental? I'm friggin' tired down here, all this bangin' against your stupid tibia bone. Let's just stop." But since it can't speak, I could only feel its pain. And I did my best to ignore it because I knew the pain would go away once I stopped running (and I really, really wanted to reach my destination without walking).

If you're a runner, the scenario described above may sound familiar. Iliotibial band syndrome is a common issue—but I am not a doctor and therefore cannot officially diagnose your pain (if any). I can, however, share with you what I've learned in my research: that this syndrome occurs when the illiotibial band rubs repeatedly against the tip of the tibia. That it consequently causes pain in the outside of the knee. And finally, that the only way to combat said syndrome is to warm up properly. (Sticking to flat surfaces and keeping up on the condition of your shoes can also help.) Treatment? Rest. Ice. I popped some Tylenol on Friday. (It still hurt, and the Tylenol seemed to take the edge off as an anti-inflammatory is known to do.)

But let's go back to the concept of warming up properly. You'll want to start with a bit of dynamic stretching, followed closely by some static stretches:

1) Walk or run slowly to activate your muscles.
2) Gently swing your legs back and forth, then side to side.
3) Stand with one foot in front of the other, then bend forward and touch (if you can) your toes.
4) Have a seat on the floor, legs stretched out in front of you. Bend one leg over the other, then pull it
    as close to your chest as you can.

I've also heard that foam rollers work the IT band, but I don't have any experience with them :-( And it goes without saying (sayin' it anyway) that you should supplement your running with strength training to keep your leg muscles in tip-top, ready-for-anything shape.

In my case, this whole thang was an overuse issue as I hadn't pushed my legs to go that far in a long time. And then I hit the gym on Friday morning for another total body workout, though I did scale back the leg activity because my IT band just wasn't interested. Right now, it feels pretty goodtime to enjoy the day!

Question: Do you use a foam roller? If so, any advice for this girl? Does your iliotibial band give you problems? If so, how do you cope?


Dad said...

My IT band always gives me fits on my left knee at around the 85 mile mark of
A 100 mile ride,especially last
weekend. A couple of ibuprofen after and it was fine.

Unknown said...

The foam roller is awesome and horrible at the same time. I use it to stretch on occasion. The doc says it's good for my knees. You have to put it under your hip, lying on your side. Then roll down to your knee. You know it's working when the pain nearly brings tears to your eyes. When I find that spot on my leg I try to roll back and forth a few times because I feel like that must be where the tight spot is. Sometimes it takes a little shifting forward and backward to hit your IT band.

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