Recently, I asked a simple question on three facebook groups I am part of: "What was the injury that has sidelined you the most?" Plantar Fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia underneath the foot) and Ilio-Tibialis Syndrome (aka IT Band syndrome) were by far the most common injuries mentioned. Other overuse injuries such as Periformis Syndrome (hip), Achilles tendonitis and Shin splints completing the top five.
This is consistent with the literature (Reference #1, Reference #2). What is a little disturbing is that these study were conducted in 2007 and 1992 (!) and we seem to have made little headway since then. Runners still have north of 50% chance of getting injured in the first year of running. We don't pay attention to what matters and 'just go for a run'. The result is a community that keeps struggling with the same issues.
One thing is clear, when it comes to overuse injuries, there is no one solution that works. If there were, we would not have the issue any more. It is a complex individual puzzle one has to solve. For the amount of people that suffer from overuse injuries, we actually know surprisingly little about some of these injuries.
For the IT Band Syndrome, the solution to the puzzle is not simple and certainly not easy. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire, 100% guaranteed way of fixing IT Band Syndrome. However, we know which treatments have a higher success rate and which ones can be combined to give you the best possible outcome. In short, here is what separates signal from general noise.
- IT Band Syndrome is caused by a bursa underneath the IT Band at the side of the knee (it is not actually the IT band that is inflamed) (reference #3)
- Ironically running slowly or carefully can aggravate the injury due to the angle of the knee
- Cortisone shots can alleviate the pain in the short term but they eat away at the damaged tissue in the long run
- Changing your biomechanics has beneficial affects on the pressure the IT Band exerts on the bursa (see video below for an easy check of midline crossing).
- Foam rolling and massages can help with the trigger points in the musculature but is ineffective in treating the bursa
- Relative rest is certainly good but even when resting you can still aggravate your injury
With this short and certainly not exhausting list of current understanding of IT Band Syndrome, it becomes clear that a combination of carefully chosen treatments may deliver the fastest results. Healthstax Running developed and individualized program that combines biomechanical analysis with specific drills to strengthen your supporting muscles and a carefully designed relative rest routine to keep your fitness up while you reduce the overuse injury that is an IT Band Syndrome. Schedule a call with coach Erik to discuss your personal puzzle and possible solutions on the road to recovery.