How to get rid of IT Band pain?
Hello Hip Pain
So your hip aches when you lie on your side at night. There’s a tender spot when you touch on the outside of your leg bone. Or maybe it’s the outside of your knee? You know, just above that little bony knob that sticks out on the side of the knee? Wherever it is, this lateral pain can be sharp – like someone stabbed you with an ice pick. It can be mild and intermittent, dull and aching at night, or sharp and painful every time you take a step. IT Band Syndrome can be chronic and just a minor irritation. Or it can become so severe, the pain prevents you from running at all. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of IT band pain.
Lateral leg pain is often a sign of a problematic illiotibial band associated with trochanteric bursitis. This is a syndrome that plagues many runners – both newbies and veterans. It is affectionately known in running circles as illiotibial band syndrome, or ITBS for short. So what exactly is this – and why does it hurt so bad?
So what is it?
The illiotibial band is a long strip of connective tissue on the lateral side of the leg which attaches at your hip and distally at your knee. You remember the song, right? Hip bone connected to the knee bone… Conveniently located under this tight band of soft tissue are little cushions called bursa sacs. When a too tight IT band (ITB) moves back and forth against these little bursa cushions when you run, the bursa sacs become irritated which leads to trochanteric bursitis of the hip.
Women are more prone to ITBS at the hip, while men are more prone to develop ITBS near the knee. I have experienced this on several occasions throughout my running career. A few years ago, while training for the Boston marathon, I had a bout that flared up when my long runs were extending past 15 miles. I tried a few of the short term fixes discussed in this article. However with the training cycle nearing the end, I was unable to achieve the long term fix needed to run pain free. I ended up missing out on Boston that year. Once I lengthened the IT band, long runs were no longer painful. The happy ending to this story was that after learning how to correct the ITBS, I was able to train for and complete the Boston marathon the following year with my second best ever marathon time.
How to get rid of IT band pain?
So how to get rid of IT band pain? A two step process is helpful. First, runners can get temporary relief and reduced inflammation from use of ice massage, anti-inflammatory medications, or joint injections into the bursa. But more importantly, the long term fix requires some concentrated effort on your part. This means stretches and exercises to lengthen the illiotibial band. This takes the pressure OFF the bursa sac and prevents pain and inflammation all together. Shown below are some basic stretches that can eliminate ITBS pain. I also recommend a search on you-tube of “illiotibial stretches” or “ITBS pain” or “trochanteric bursitis” which should produce some physical therapy videos demonstrating stretches to loosen and lengthen the IT band.
For icing, a recent study found that using a point-specific ice massage for just 5 minutes is as effective as icing an area for 15-20 minutes. To perform a point-ice massage, use an ice cube on the tender point and gently massage for 5 minutes. Ice massage is a natural anti inflammatory that is safe, effective and has no side effects that medications can cause. If you are uncertain about performing these stretches on your own, contact your doctor for a physical therapy referral. They can demonstrate the stretches for you.
Here is a youtube video clip of 2 physical therapists performing the top 3 stretches to lengthen the IT band. Two of these stretches require no equipment, however the third requires a Foam Roller. You can purchase those at a running store, or sporting equipment store.
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