As some of you may already know, through reading my past articles or working with me, I am currently training for the Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon in June. The training you have to do for a marathon is different for everyone but for me it includes at least two running sessions per week and 3-4 CrossFit style high intensity training sessions.
Unfortunately, my wife and friend who are also training for the marathon have both been hit with Illiotibial (IT) Band syndrome. This is the most common injury for runners and it is caused when the IT band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps stabilise and move the joint. When it isn't working properly, movement of the knee (and, therefore, running) becomes very painful. IT band pain can be severe enough to completely sideline a runner for weeks, or even longer! The most obvious symptom is normally swelling and pain on the outside of the knee, therefore many runners mistakenly think they have a knee injury. The best way to tell if you have ITBS is to bend your knee at a 45-degree angle and if you have an IT band problem, you'll feel pain on the outside of the knee.
ITB syndrome can result from any activity that causes the leg to turn inward repeatedly. This can include wearing worn-out shoes, running downhill, running too many track workouts in the same direction, or simply running too many miles. Unlike many overuse injuries, however, IT band pain hits seasoned runners almost as much as beginners. When the iliotibial band comes near the knee, it becomes narrow, and rubbing can occur between the band and the bone and this then causes inflammation. Iliotibial Band Syndrome is more common in women, possibly because some women's hips tilt in a way that causes their knees to turn in.
If you notice any ITB pain, the best way to get rid of it for good is to rest immediately. That means running less miles, or no running at all. In the majority of runners, resting immediately will prevent pain from returning. If you don't give yourself a break from running, ITBS can become extremely painful. Whilst you are slowing down with your running, you can cross-train. Swimming, pool running, cycling, and rowing are all fine. Side stretches and foam rolling will help massively to ease the pain as will ice or heat treatment. If your ITB problem doesn't get better after a few weeks, then you may need to get help from a sports-medicine professional.