The Iliotibial Band, or IT Band as it is commonly referred to, is a fibrous, thick connective tissue. It begins at the hip bone and runs down the outside of the thigh and attaches at the shin bone. The IT Band works in conjunction with the thigh muscles to provide stability when the legs are moving.
Friction occurs when the IT Band passes over the bony outside section of the knee as the leg bends and straightens. Runners commonly experience discomfort or pain when the IT Band becomes irritated or inflamed. Typically, their feet strike the ground just as the IT Band passes across that hard outside part of the knee which can cause pain to be felt on the outside of the knee, the thigh or the hip. The intensity of pain may increase when descending stairs and hills.
Other factors can contribute to IT Band injuries:
weak hip muscles
tight or inflexible thigh and buttock muscles
excessive hill running
running on slanted/curved surfaces
Being proactive and knowledgeable can help avoid IT Band problems. There is an abundance of exercises that target key muscles and movements that will increase flexibility. Another important factor in preventing injuries is using proper form.
Prevention of IT Band injuries can be greatly improved by including various strength training exercises along with rehabilitation and stretching routines. Below is a list of common hip and thigh strengthening exercises that you can do by yourself:
- Walking lunges
- Yoga for runners low lunge
- Split squats with fitness ball
- Squats with resistance band raises
At the end of the day every runner wants to run injury free. As we discussed earlier, the hips and IT Bands are prone to injury if you have excessive tightness and/or weak muscles. Training should include ample stretching and strengthening followed by a foam roller massage for the serious runner who puts in a lot of weakly mileage (a lot can vary by individual but generally means anything above 20 miles per week). Use the foam roller to massage and stretch out the IT Band and the surrounding tissues. Make sure the foam roller is densely packed and has a consistency more like wood. Use your body weight and gravity to massage. Pain should be felt in those areas during massage to know it is being done correctly. The pain indicates an area of tightness.
Runners can also use myofascial massage/release to work out pain and tightness. Starting early and being consistent with the above techniques should improve your chances of running healthy and pain free for the long term.
An exercise program is essential to being fit in body, mind and spirit. Let us guide you to a long, healthy running experience.
Aaron & Andie
Aim Fitness www.aim2bfit.com
215 Fremont St
SF CA 94105
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