Tightness in the iliotibial band is a classic runner’s ailment. The band, which runs from the knee to the hip, can become inflamed, and cause problems ranging from light discomfort to intense pain. This can make running impossible, but a combination of massage, stretching and thoughtful prevention methods can mitigate symptoms and keep you in your running shoes. Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with IT band tightness:
Know your body
Though IT band tightness has many causes, overuse is the major culprit. If you start to feel pain in your knee or your hip, take note and cut down on your activity. It may even be necessary to cease running altogether for a while. While this can be frustrating, it will prevent the issue from getting worse. Without proper attention, an IT band injury can intensify and prevent activity for an even longer period. If you turn down the intensity at the first sign of a problem and follow the steps listed below, the tightness will represent a minor hiccup in your routine rather than serious problem.
Stretch early and often
The traditional treatment for IT band issues involves extensive stretching and lengthening the ligament itself. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, but most require you to cross one leg over the other as you thrust the bad hip outward. It’s also important to massage the affected area with a massager or foam roller. Establishing a practice that massages and stretches the band, particularly after physical activity, will eliminate any current issues and make future issues less likely.
While the traditional method of stretching and massage has helped athletes deal with the effects of IT band tightness for years, new research suggests that strength training is an equally important part of prevention and treatment. The key, according to researchers, is hip strength. The scientists put a group of runners who suffered from IT band issues through a recovery program that incorporated self massage, stretching and hip strength, and found all of the patients were able to return to running. When they checked the effects of treatment, it appeared that hip strength was strongly correlated with recovery. If you’re ever knocked out by a tight IT band, take some of your time off from running and devote it to hip exercises instead.
They say the best defense is a good offense, and that is also true when it comes to your IT band. By making simple changes to your running habits, it’s possible to stop IT band problems before they occur. Running on uneven surfaces can aggravate the ligament, so avoid running on the sloped sides of the road. Similarly, don’t run the same direction every workout if you run around a track. Doing so hits your IT bands unevenly as you turn the same direction time after time. Additionally, give yourself a warm-up walk before you start running for the day. Strolling a mile will loosen your IT bands and prep them for the exertion to come.