The IT Band, or the iliotibial band, is a band of thick fascia on the outside of the knee. It is responsible for stabilizing the knee, especially during running. When the band continually rubs over the lateral femoral epicondyle, is constantly stressed due to the flexion and extension of the knee, and repeatedly stressed by impact forces of running, the area is likely to become inflamed. This can cause extreme tenderness of the IT band and knee pain, often diagnosed as IT Band Syndrome.
Technique - The number one way to limit your running career is to land on your heels. Heel striking it the single worst thing we can do for our body. With all the impact forces going straight up our leg upon impact, it will cause a number of issues to happen to your body, but your IT Band and knee will be suffering greatly. Land softly by mimicking jumping rope and land under your center of gravity on your forefoot. This will decrease impact forces to almost zero and not cause additional strain on the IT Band. Additionally, be sure you are landing with a relatively straight foot. It can have a slight turn outward, but be sure not to externally rotate your foot too much which will cause shortening of the IT Band.
Progression - Ensure through any exercise discipline that you are progressing properly. If starting a new running program be sure to not increase your mileage too quickly. Many believe you should never run more than 10% in a linear progression. I think you can up that a bit to about 20-25%. So, if you run 1 mile on your first day of running, you shouldn't be running more than 1.25 miles on your next run.
Rest Days - Unless an event calls for it, never run on consecutive days. Regardless of how amazing your run technique and how precisely you are progressing your miles, running is tough on the body. Take rest days between runs.
Mobility - even if you aren't currently feeling issues, you should still be taking care of your IT Band, especially if you are a runner. Check out the treatment options below and hit a couple of those each week for IT Band Maintenance.
Foam Roller - DO NOT ROLL LENGTHWISE OF THE IT BAND! This will cause the IT Band to smash into the quad and will not heal your pain. Although it might cause temporary relief, instead roll side to side on the IT Band or flex and extend the knee on tender spots. This will release the IT band from the quad and ease inflammation.
Lax Ball - Use the lacrosse ball to roll the IT Band side to side either against the wall or in the ball of your hand. Remember to not roll too much as it can create more damages and we need the area to repair itself. Roll only once a day for 2 minutes or so on each side.
Mobility - Since you cannot stretch the thick and strong fascia of the IT Band, you will need to focus your efforts on the gluts and hip flexors. Low Lizard Pose, Pigeon Pose and Couch Stretch are some of my favorite stretches for these areas. Remember, you should be holding each stretch for 2 minutes on each side to really promote change.
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.