Tight or painful iliotibial bands (IT bands) are one of the most common trail running-related injuries, but can be resolved within several days or weeks with the right recovery methods. IT band tightness can extend from the hip down to the kneecap and in some cases, can include shooting pains down the outside of the leg.
For some trail runners, the pain can be quite extreme and affect their gait as they run or walk. It’s important to resolve IT band issues immediately so they don’t worsen or cause other injuries from overcompensation, or an unnatural stride. In this article, I share my top four tips for runners with IT band troubles.
Seek Out Myofascial/Active Release Treatment
Myofascial release is a type of massage or manipulative treatment that involves releasing tension in the fascia and connective tissues. Active release is a specific type of myofascial release that involves both manipulation and movement. Both methods are effective at treating many types of sports-related injuries caused by inflammation, posture or trauma. I find these methods particularly effective with the IT band because this area can easily store tension. Research licensed massage therapists in your area who offer these techniques. A typical session lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
Foam Roll Routinely
Foam rollers are a trail runner’s best friend! Foam rolling your IT band will help relieve tension and can relieve pain immediately. When you foam roll, begin at the top of your hip and roll slowly down the side of your leg. Stop at any tight areas and hold for 15 to 30 seconds before continuing to roll down the leg. Each leg should take roughly one to three minutes depending on your tightness. Consider rolling out your quads and glutes as tension in these areas can lead to IT band issues. Roll at least twice per day until the pain is gone.
Strengthen Glutes and Hips
One of the main causes of IT band injuries are weak glutes and hips. Running involves motion in the forwards and backwards directions, with little motion side-to-side. This results in weakness in muscles such as the gluteus medius, which can put extra strain on the IT band when you run. Listed below are a few of my favorite ways to make sure my glutes and hips stay strong.
- Band Walks (1 minute each direction)
- Side Planks (1 minute per side)
- Leg Holds (1 minute per side)
Tight hips can lead to added tension in the IT band. Although it can be difficult for many of us with desk jobs, try your best to avoid sitting too much, which increases hip tightness. Try these exercises to loosen up your hips and take strain off your IT band.
- Leg Swings. 30 seconds with foot turned in, followed by 30 seconds with foot turned in. Switch legs.
- 90/90 Hip Stretch (pictured below). 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds leaning forward. Switch legs.
- If you’re looking for an additional challenge, try raising your back foot.
Are you also dealing with knee issues? See my quick fix for Runner’s Knee.
Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website.