10 Steps to a Healthy IT Band

Man using foam roller

Disclaimer: I am no expert on this issue and post with general reservation because I know injuries are fickle and can pop up at any moment.

I cannot believe how many people deal with IT Band problems.  There is information everywhere and I devoured it all.  I tried everything, but witchcraft, and eventually broke through some pretty severe pain to got back on my feet.  The following is a 10-step-list that of what worked best for me.

  1. ICE
    The day I injured my right IT Band, I came home and iced the crap out of my knee for three days.  I alternated compression (see #2) and kept my leg elevated as much as I could.  A couple weeks later, my right IT band was fine, but I hurt my left one on a trail run.  I completely “forgot” the ice part, but two weeks later repeated my routine and not surprisingly, it helped.
    I wore a compression wrap on my knee for two straight days in between icing.  I also wore it the first few runs when I felt I was ready to go.  I still wear it for long runs, especially when I don’t have much time to loosen up or when my legs feel “cold.”
    Every day I ease to the ground for some leg raises.  Laying on my side I do a couple sets of 20 on each side.  I try to keep my torso leaning a bit forward so I feel the lift in my ass.  I also do pelvic thrusts.  Yeah, I said it.   Lay on your back with your knees up and cross one ankle over a knee and lift the pelvis with arms resting flat on the floor.  A big chunk of what I read about IT bands talks about strength and these are two simple but effective exercises.
    When I started with this roller, I was routinely in tears because my muscles were so knotted.  It was that good pain though, and I humped my way up and down that bad boy for a couple weeks.  Now the pain is virtually non-existent in my thighs and quads.  I can really tell that this keeps my legs looser and they rarely ache the day after runs.  I have also been using a regular kitchen roller to warm the legs in a pinch.  Thanks Daniel for persisting.
    I had one on my birthday and there’s no doubt it helped move along the progress the foam roller was making.  The other thing I do is rub my thighs hard to get heat going with the palm of my hand as I’m driving to a run.
  6. AB WORK
    I’m not really sure how this is connected, but I’m pretty positive it is.  A strong core works in magical ways and I think it likely takes strain off of your legs.
    Let me tell you about running in place.  It could be the backbone of warming up.  I barely lift my feet and keep chop-stepping for 10-20 minutes before any kind of workout.  It also helps me run on my mid-foot because it’s nearly impossible to run in place on your heals.
    When muscles get tight they are likely dehydrated.  This can be especially true (and not realized) in the morning.  I’m lucky because I love drinking water and pound it whenever it’s available.  It’s easy to “forget” about water during workouts, especially on a bike or swimming, but a lubricated IT band is likely much happier.
    Without getting too deep, I believe a quiet mind translates into a healthier body.  Sit and be quiet. Take focus off your injury and relax into your comfortable self.
  10. REST
    It was hard to do, but I skipped three weeks of running with my group while I tried to restore my IT band.  It was as much as “running rest” as getting a good night sleep.

If I had to put all of this in a nutshell, I’d say my IT complications were do to a combination of not warming up, de-hydration and general weakness.  I am actually glad I went through this early in the game because it’s a great learning step.  I have really focused on building strength and making sure I’m loose before I workout.  Hope some of this helps you.

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