The Great Illiotibial Band Mystery

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had Illiotibial Band Syndrome.

*Hand up*

That mysterious pain on the outside of your knee or hip that hurts more the more you run? That’s the one. If you’ve been a runner for more than a month, you’ve probably come across some IT Band problems. It’s such a common issue for runners that it gets its own post!

Hello, little band. You are a big pain in the butt.

There are a couple of things to understand about the IT Band:

  1. It’s fascia, not a muscle.
  2. Its origin (upper attachment) is on the muscle belly of the Tensor Fascia Lata (which attaches to the hip) and the iliac crest and girdle (hip).
  3. Its insertion (lower attachment) is to the femur (thigh), the patella (knee) and the tibia (shin).
  4. In a cadaver, the fascia is about as thick as tissue paper but wicked-strong.

Because the attachment sights are at the hip and the knee/shin area, the wider your hips are, (or more knocked-kneed you are) the more prone to IT Band problems you will be. This is why women experience more cases of IT Band syndrome than men. Yet another awesome anatomic anomaly in favor of the fairer sex. Yay.

Essentially, it is the job of this fascia to stabilize both the knee and hip. It is tense in both extension and flexion of the knee (when you bend and straighten it = all the time) and it is also involved in hip abduction (moving your leg out to the side). What does this mean for runners? Well, it’s always working. In every direction. For the whole run.

Ergo, without proper training it gets pooped out easily.

Why IT Band Syndrome happens:

  1. Your hips/glutes are weak.
  2. You add too much mileage or speed too soon.
  3. Your shoes suck.
  4. Your gait is wonky.

These problems are easily fixed by the following methods:

  1. Hip/Gluteย strengthening exercises.
  2. Stretching (live in half-pigeonย for a while).
  3. Only add 10-15% more mileage every week (and cut back if you have pain).
  4. Foam rollย your hips and glutes.

See? The IT Band isn’t so scary now that you know what to do with it! You should really be doing all of this anyway to prevent IT Band (and other) injuries so get on it! If your pain persists after implementing these tips, lay off the running and see and orthopedist to make sure it’s not something more serious.

Happy trails!

Now go out and run.

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3 thoughts on “The Great Illiotibial Band Mystery

  1. Ah if only it were that simple. I definitely agree with all those tips (especially gradually mileage and foam rolling like crazy!)- they can go a long way to preventing IT troubles.
    But often they get really bad, really quickly and its hard to come back from. I was out for 1.5 years so it can be a very debilitating injury.

  2. IT Band. Sigh. So frustrating! I think my IT Band issue is gone (knock on wood) but has morphed into something else. I have been doing your hip exercises for a month or so now, though :) I feel stronger!

  3. Pingback: Ask Me Anything « run stronger every day

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