A few weeks ago I had to abandon a race because of iliotibial band pain (Nilgiris 100 kms). It sucked a million times !
I already had caught this 3 years ago and I knew it was damn difficult to get rid of it permanently. It is also a super frustrating because the pain will quickly disappear and you will want to run but as soon as you do it, the pain will come back instantly.
It is a tough problem to get over, but it is possible and actually pretty easy to do.
Step 1: Rest!
Step 2: Stretch all those tight tissues and reinforce your weak hip muscles !
It affects a tissue that runs from the side of your hip all of the way down past your knee. Most of the time and myself included, the inflammation manifests itself as pain on the outside of the knee. One quick look at the anatomy on the right can help you realize that the cause of the pain can be anywhere from the hip to the knee.
So even though the pain is in the knee, the source of the problem might be elsewhere and we want to stretch all that in order to start fresh and new so we can strengthen that hip. Give you an hour daily to do below exercises for the 2 weeks of rest you have taken (as a minimum) and then incorporate some squats and lunges to your weekly schedule.
Step 3: Learn how to run by striking with your mid foot/forefoot !
If you like to read books then I strongly advise you to read this: “Born to Run” from Christopher Mc Dougall.
It is a story of a man who discovers a hidden tribe that runs ultra long distances on a weekly basis. Through them he changes his way of running in order to run longer and further. All superbly written and a true story featuring Scott Jurek.
By reading this I don’t intend to convert you to minimalism (although you should 😉 but the mechanisms behind it are correct and you can apply it with normal running shoes also.
The first time I got ITB syndrome 3 years ago, it wouldn’t heal. I was desperate and I found this book by chance. I actually had it in my drawer for a while before I started reading it. What was the point if I couldn’t run anymore?
When I got to it, it made me understand that all Kenyans and Ethiopians are the best long distance runners in the world not only because of genes but also because of their running mechanism. See, the industry of running shoes remodeled the way we ran with their cushioning and their heel to toe drop.
I thought I could give it a shot since I wasn’t healing anyway. So I got myself a new pair of shoes (Brooks PureGrit 1 with 4mm drop) that was suppose to ease the transfer from heel striking to forefoot running. I began, slowly starting with 5 mins run, focusing on my foot landing, and then increased progressively until I could run an ultra with those. The transition from heel striking to forefoot running (without going into minimalism) is very slow, but it is worth it.
By striking mid foot/forefoot your body absorbs the shock more easily. This is because forefoot runners touch the ground while keeping their ankles and knees bent, as well as their hip joints slightly open. It creates a natural method of shock absorption. When you land on your heel, your ankle is retracted, so it cannot absorb the impact. Instead, your knees absorb the bulk of the stress, and this can result in knee injuries, as well as strains on the tendons in your feet. Your forefoot is also wider than your heel, and landing on it instead increases the surface that absorbs the impact, reducing the shock.
Before doing the transition, I suffered from chronic ITB for 6 months on my right knee. No stretches or anything was working for me until I changed my running style. 3 years later I got ITB again. I needed 2 weeks, some stretches and hip strengthening to be able to run again. Do the maths, but it’s pretty clear you should switch to forefoot striking !