Posted by: teejford | February 25, 2008

Body in Focus: Taking care of your IT Band

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome TJ Ford as a contributing editor to Running Advice and News. TJ is a sports massage practitioner in Portland, Oregon and an avid marathon runner. She will run the Los Angeles Marathon next weekend and then the Race for the Roses in Portland in April. TJ will focus on theraputic practices, stretching, strengthening and other issues that impact you as runners in her new column “Body in Focus” that will appear her on Running Advice and News. If you have questions for her, please feel free to post them on the “Questions” page by clicking on the tab at the top right of this page.

Here’s a question that came in recently that I was asked to tackle: “I’m a new runner and I was out running this past weekend with some “veterans”. They were going on and on about their “IT Bands”. I didn’t know what they were and I was afraid to ask, but they sounded important. So what gives? What’s an IT Band and how do I keep it from hurting me?”

The IT Band, or Iliotibial band, runs from your hipbone down past your knee. Like a piece of that white packing tape with the little threads through it, the ITB is flat, wide and tough. It has to support our knee every time we take a step. But like the packing tape, it can get sticky, and when it gets ignored, it becomes dehydrated, stiff and hard and stuck to the quadriceps underneath. This can cause all sorts of problems including knee pain, hip pain, the Sudden Knee-Collapse, and the dreaded “ITB Syndrome”.

So runners need to be very kind to our IT Bands to and keep them healthy and happy.

Because the IT Band is a piece of connective tissue, we can’t really strengthen it, but we can keep it flexible and pliable with a few simple stretches. First, make sure that you’re doing a good job stretching your quadriceps muscles (on the front and sides of your thighs) as well as your gluteal (butt) muscles, since these are connected to the ITB and if they’re unhappy, then so is the ITB.

To stretch the ITB: I call this the planter’s peanut stretch (look at the guy on the peanut jar and you’ll see what I mean – see below):

Mr Peanut<

Stand next to a wall with your right hand lightly on the wall (the shoulder of your running partner works well, too). Cross your left leg in front of your right leg, bring your left arm up and over your head (the top hat is optional) and gently push your left hip out to the side. Keep your left foot flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch down the outside of your thigh. This can also be done with your left leg crossed behind your right leg – try it both ways to see which one feels more effective for you. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. This is a great stretch to do as part of your warm-up, after a run, or anytime during the day you can find a wall or a friend to lean on.

If you see a massage therapist, physical therapist or chiropractor, ask them to do what’s called myofascial (my-oh-fash-ul) release on the ITB. It feels a little like you’re being filleted, but it’s over soon and it’s worth it to walk and run without knee pain.

Have more questions about your body, let me know. Please feel free to post a comment to this page or the questions page.

TJ Ford, Portland Oregon, USA
for Running Advice and News
http://www.running-advice.com

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Responses

  1. I would also recommend for anyone experiencing IT band issues using a “foam roller”. Most gyms have them, but they can also be purchased for $20 or so. While they can be used on many muscle groups as a form of self-massage, for IT Band purposes, one simply lays down on one’s side with the roller under the upper thigh. Initially, the foot of the top leg might need to be placed on the ground to take some of the pressure off of the tender IT Band. With regular use, you should find that you can support your full body weight on the roller, rolling from just above the knee all the way up to the hip. Invariably you will touch on some really sore/tight spots. Think of those like knots. Those will work out with time. The technical term for what you are doing here, which, I am sure TJ is much, much more qualified to comment on, is myofascial massage or myofascial release. A simple google search will also help to explain more.

    I had serious knee and hip soreness training for my first marathon in 2006 and the foam roller was the only think that helped–none of the stretches keyed in enough on the spot. I now have one at home that I use every time I start to get a little tight or sore. Best $20 I ever spent.

  2. James,

    It’s ironic that you wrote in about foam rollers. I just asked TJ today to write something on foam rollers and “the Stick”.

    Great suggestion. For the rest of you readers, expect more about this very soon.

    Joe

  3. Thank you, coach, for this post! I’m struggling with IT Band issues right now…extremely frustrating. I will start stretching like Mr. Peanut…might even have to find me a top hat!

    Tracy

  4. That’s so funny – I had a massage a few weeks ago and the therapist was working on my IT band – it was intense. She said much the same. Thank-you for the advice on stretching! Hopefully my next visit will be less intense.

  5. I have the stick, the foam rollers, I also have the trigger point roller and ball. All are good, beware of creating too much pain, remember to breath, and know that none replace a good body work session. Hydrate and have fun

  6. Hey guys!
    i just started blogging not that long ago and running across this blog it seemed a bit too interesting to only read the first paragraph. I kinda got confused in the middle of it but the end just made it all go together like a puzzle. Please, who ever wrote this, keep me updated!


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