Excerpted from: How To Run For Your Life. Pain Free With No Compensations.
The IT band is a complex piece of tendon running down the outside of the upper leg. The “band” is more like fascial webbing and often adheres itself to the underlying lateral quadriceps muscle (vastus lateralis). The “band” bypasses the outside of the knee and inserts into the lateral head of the tibia. It’s responsible for a common runner’s injury known as IT band syndrome (ITBS). The IT band itself is a continuation of a muscle from the crest of the hip bone (tensor fascia latae), and gluteus maximus, the largest muscle of your butt. Importantly, both these muscles pass near the head of the femur hip joint zone (greater trochanter). An over-tight IT band is another contender in the “knock knees” compensation pattern. It can also transmit pain to the glutes, hips and low back. Runners with a weak gluteus medius muscle are more likely to end up with ITBS because it allows the thigh bone to turn inwards and give “knock knees.”
ITBS―runner’s knee―can be painful but is not considered serious. The IT band slides over the lateral condyle of the femur during walking and running and may become irritated by excess repetition or running on banked surfaces such as the edge of a road. The knee joint is protected by a fluid-filled bursa sac that allows the IT band to glide by frictionless as the knee is flexed and extended. When the IT band becomes too tight under repetitive stress it creates inflammation and, if ignored, can result in knee bursitis. This rarely requires surgery and rehab because conservative methods of treatment are quite effective.
Trochanteric bursitis is another painful condition associated with repetitive stress of surrounding tissues from running, cycling or stair climbing. As previously mentioned, the IT band and its attendant muscles pass very close by the greater trochanter of the femur and hip joint. If the IT band becomes irritated under prolonged stress, it can pass inflammation to the bursa sac that protects the greater trochanter and give you a painful time. This pain is continual while under motion and exacerbated when you lie on your side attempting to get some restful sleep, so reduction of the symptoms becomes forefront. Treatment and self-help are similar to ITBS above.
To add to my story I told in the “Knee Problems” section, I sometimes feel a pain in my right hip zone and have found a way to reduce it while continuing to run. I place my right thumb tip directly on the pivot point of my leg and hip, fully extend my fingers down the outside of my leg and press as hard as I can into the IT band for 10-15 seconds while still running. The mild pain I was feeling at the hip joint area somehow seems to dissipate.
- Rest, ice, compress and elevate (RICE) any quadriceps strain, pull or tear.
- Use anti-inflammatory medication.
- Massage tight muscles.
- Reduce distance, stop continual banked one-sided running.
- Check running shoes for excess wear and replace as necessary.
- Check orthotics and insoles.
- Stretch and foam-roll tight IT band after inflammation has dissipated.
- Strengthen weak IT band and weak gluteus medius.
- See: “Clam Shell” exercise.
If you want to read more about typical runner’s injuries, and correct rehab, how to find root causes and how to rectify the issues with specific of exercises, stretches and strengthening with lots of photos, click on the cover page