After last December’s North Face 50K, my body hurt. Big time. For the last 10 miles of the race, my right knee killed me, and every time I ran after that, I would have debilitating pain a few miles into every workout. After Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, I had an orthopedist check out my knee, and she confirmed my suspicions: Iliotibial Band Syndrome. A combination of overuse (hello, 50K without training) and weak hips resulted in a tight, painful IT band near my right knee. After about six weeks of TLC and at-home physical therapy, I’ve begun building back my running base, reaching 20 miles for the first time in months last week.
With injuries a prevalent topic of discussion in our apartment during the last month, I thought I would share what worked for curbing my ITBS:
- Complete rest from running: I didn’t run for about a month after the Kaiser Half. Running felt painful, frustrating, and unproductive. Instead, I focused on spinning, swimming, yoga, and weight lifting.
- New shoes: I had been wearing what works for Jesse (Altras), but every time I ran, I felt like I was putting undue stress on my hips and IT bands. It dawned on me one day that my love of Brooks Cascadias would also likely translate to loving Brooks road shoes, so I went to Sports Basement and tried on about five pairs of Brooks, settling on the Glycerins. I absolutely love how comfortable and cushioned these shoes have felt; I think I need a more traditional running shoe.
- Deep tissue sports massages: I’ve been getting massaged monthly, but the last two times, I had the massage therapist work intensely on my IT bands. The pain was a bit excruciating in the moment, but once I healed up, my range of motion came back and my pain subsided.
- Specific exercises for hip strengthening: My orthopedist proved to me that my hips are weak by easily pushing down my leg while I laid on my side. Weak hips are a common problem for runners and triathletes. I’ve tried to combat this with hip strengthening exercises, like the clam shell with a resistance band around my legs, various bridges, donkey kicks, and side leg raises with my foot around a resistance band. The burning sensation I feel from these small movements indicates to me that this type of strength work is helping.
- Stretching and foam rolling: To maintain looseness between massages, I try to be good about stretching and foam rolling for at least a half hour per night.
- Icing my knee: When the pain was especially bad, I would sit in my gym’s steam room with an ice pack wrapped around my knee for about 15 minutes at a time.
It’s hard to tell whether one specific variable solved my pain or this magical combination cured me of ITBS, but I’m thankful either way that I can now run pain-free. I’m gearing up for the Presidio 10-miler with Jamie next month, and in May, I’m targeting a half marathon PR at Mountains 2 Beach.