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Title image:  Getting ready for expeditions, resources and tips

Training for Travel with Personal Trainer Terri Truman

The Infamous IT Band… What It Is and Why It Hurts

The iliotibial (IT) band is a strong, thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of the leg. It starts at the hip and runs along the outer thigh and attaches on the outside edge of the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee joint. The band works with the quadriceps (thigh muscles) to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint as you move.

IT band friction syndrome is a common source of knee and hip pain in athletes and is most commonly felt along the outside (lateral) knee and the lower thigh. IT band syndrome may also result in a nagging or acute pain on the outside of the hip.

IT band syndrome is typically caused by inflammation of a tight or overused IT band, tight or weak muscles, and both chronic (has been around for a while) and acute (just happened) injuries. It is common with many athletes during their sporting careers and can be triggered by:

  • Overuse
  • Increasing Training Too Quickly
  • Overtraining
  • Returning from Injury Too Soon
  • Faulty Biomechanics

The pain is typically felt on the outside (lateral) aspect of the knee or lower thigh, but may be felt near the hip, and is often more intense when descending stairs (or walking down a mountain after a great summit) or getting up from a seated position.

Treating IT band friction syndrome may include one or more of these treatments:

  • R.I.C.E.: Rest, ice, compression and elevation is a great way to treat initial IT band pain.
  • Athletic Therapist: These therapists use many different treatments to help the injured tissues heal more quickly. A skilled AT can also help you correct any biomechanical or training errors, and teach you how to perform the right flexibility exercises.
  • Reduce Activity: recognize signs of overtraining, slow down and rest.
  • Use a foam roller to release the tissue, may be painful, but many people have excellent success with this technique. Just remember not to roll on the joint itself, always rolling both above and below the joint. As you come across a particularly painful spot…stop and hover, moving on when the muscle has eased up a bit.
  • Massage Therapy: They focus on the root cause of your pain and work to reduce muscle tension through a variety of treatments.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to reduce pain and inflammation.

Of course, it’s better, if possible, to avoid this nagging injury by maintaining IT Band flexibility. There are many different ways to stretch your IT band but if you are looking for an amazing stretch, look no further. Here is a great one, the Standing IT Band Stretch:

  • Stand with your right leg crossed in front of your left leg.
  • With your left arm extending overhead, reach to your right side.
  • Put your right hand on your hip.
  • Push slightly on your right hip to move your hips to the left; you will feel a slight stretch along the left side of your torso.
  • Continue to stretch so you feel a complete stretch on the outer torso, hip, upper thigh and knee of your left leg.
  • Hold 20 to 30 seconds, then change sides.

For a deeper stretch, keep your feet farther apart, bend the knee of your forward foot and keep the back knee straight.

Remember to stretch after EVERY workout, and be good to yourself.