My First Running Injury: IT Band Syndrome

January 18, 2018

For at least the last ten years or so, I’ve had some achy knees from time to time. I was pleasantly surprised when running actually began helping this occasional pain; an awesome side benefit!! But around mid-November, I started experiencing a different kind of knee pain- very unlike the old reliable joint issues I’d had in the past. This pain was burning and seemed to emanate from the outside of the knee, rather than the joint itself. I tried running through it, but that always seemed to make it worse. I could get about 2 miles in, and the burning would return and quickly become too painful to keep going.

A Real Runner’s Injury

I’d mentioned this knee pain to my husband a few times, and we both thought if I kept training my muscles would strengthen up, and it would eventually get better… But when it had been going on for a few weeks, he asked more specifically about the pain. Once he heard about the location of the pain, the thought occurred to him that it was the same injury his dad had experienced for a time; IT Band Syndrom.

IT Band Syndrome (or iliotibial band) is a for real runner’s injury, and it is super common, especially for new runners. I’m no doctor, but my understanding is that there is a ligament that runs from your hip down through your knee. If your muscles don’t support/hold that band correctly, it can make your knee very very sad. When I read the symptoms, there was zero doubt in my mind that this was my problem.

Guys. I must be a real runner. I have a real runner’s injury!

DIY IT Band Syndrome Treatment

So, we self-diagnosed the issue… we thought we would self-treat it too. The problem is? There was a lot of conflicting recommendations out there. Some people said compression was awesome; others said compression was the worst thing ever. There were 87(ish) different stretches & exercises to try, and I was never sure if I was doing them correctly. Then there is foam rolling, which I definitely don’t know how to do properly.

After trying a bunch of different things for a few weeks, we finally decided I should visit a physical therapist.


There were several hoops I had to jump through to get into physical therapy. First I needed a referral from my doctor. Then my doctor insisted I needed an x-ray even though I KNEW it was a soft tissue issue. [Insert eye roll here] don’t make me pay for doctor’s visits and x-rays so that I can get a little PT help!!

Once all the bureaucracy was taken care of, I met my Physical Therapist. I could tell that I liked her right off the bat, which was great!! We chatted for a bit, and just from our discussion she knew it was, you guessed it, IT Band Syndrome (VALIDATION!)… then she did a physical assessment.

Teeny-Tiny Wimpy Muscles

Okay. That’s not exactly how the physical therapist put it. But my IT Band hates me because my glutes and hamstrings are weak, plus those hammies are super-duper tight. So the plan is to stretch & strengthen my muscles, and that should help my IT Band behave itself. She’s also going to help me with my running gait, to be more efficient and make my body happier!!

It’s going to be a lot of work. And judging from my first session, it is going to be pretty darn unpleasant work. But, it should pay off in the long-run (unintentional running pun, that I noticed when I was editing this post). Not only will I be able to run pain-free, but I’ll also probably be a faster/better runner in general. I’ve just gotta buckle down these next few weeks and do what I need to do to correct this!!

No Runs

Sadly, I am not supposed to run for at least the first couple weeks of my treatment; I need to let the injury rest. We’ll be slowly adding runs to the mix; once my muscles are stronger and better equipped for the task.

I was concerned about this pause in training because my half marathon is not that far away… I asked if it was still a realistic goal. My therapist said she thought it would still be doable, so I am planning on that. Hopefully, if I work hard at PT, I’ll be able to make up for these lost weeks of runs!

Okay friends, share with me your running injury stories- and more importantly, about your recovery!  Or, if you’ve ever had an IT Band issue, I’d love to hear what worked for you!

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  1. Amanda on January 18, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    So sorry you’ve had to experience this. But glad you’re on the right track. I’ve developed quite the relationship with my sports doc AND PT so hopefully we will all be happier in the end. Cheers to strength and running!

    • Kate on January 18, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! My PT is great; I am thrilled because I have a feeling that this will not be the last time I need some help. Hope we are both up & running stronger soon!!

  2. Andi on January 18, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    My first running injury was plantar faciitis. I remember exactly when and how I got it. I pushed myself to hit a certain time for a 5k before I was ready for that… so it was a basic overuse injury. Like any good runner, I attempted to run through it. LOL. Eventually I backed off and let it rest, along with doing some stretches and rolling it over a frozen water bottle. Then a friend told me about the Galloway run/walk method and that was the thing that got me back to running without pain. Since then I’ve had a variety of others…at least one new injury a year. LOL.

    • Kate on January 18, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Ugh, I heard that is one of the most painful running injuries. Ha, I figure this is the first, but probably not the last injury– I should check out the run/walk thing for when I start up again, I’ll need to go slow for sure.

  3. Jenna Sargent on January 18, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    I had to skip the last 3 weeks of my half marathon training plan for my first half due to developing what I think was plantar fasciitis. It all worked out though and I actually ended up running most of it even though I thought I would have to take it easy and walk a ton. Ended up coming in under my goal time too!

    • Kate on January 18, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      That’s awesome! I am bummed to lose a few training weeks, but I am relieved that it is so early on in my program– really hoping that I can make it up! Glad you had such a great first half, despite losing those weeks!!

  4. Jennifer on January 19, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I’m glad your on the path to recovery! I haven’t had any major running injuries but I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve been incorporating strength trianing and yoga in for the last couple of years.

    But I did take a nasty spill on the ice (walking to the apartment gym) after Christmas and had to take 3 days off of exercising to let my knee feel better (it was bruised up pretty good and sore).

    • Kate on January 22, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Good for you (the stretching, not the falling!)– I should have incorporated stretching from the beginning; total rookie mistake. Hope your knee is feeling better!!

  5. Amanda on January 30, 2018 at 9:20 am

    NOOOOOOO! I’m sad you have an IT band injury 🙁 I am no stranger to this injury and have struggled with it on and off on both knees for years. College running is what really did me in (plus the whole weak glutes/hips thing :P). It sounds like you are doing everything right, though! PT for months and lots of yoga is what helped me kick my worst case of IT band syndrome, although I have occasional flare ups if I get lazy with my strength work and stretching. So moral of the story after you graduate PT: stretch/do yoga at least once a week, do core and leg strength a few times per week, do not increase your mileage drastically, and be PATIENT. This is not an easy injury to kick, but once you build up your strength, as long as you maintain it, you will be ok! Best of luck and let me know if I can be of help! 🙂

  6. Jeff on February 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Kate, how is the treatment going as of now? I hope you’re doing consistent strength training (lifting weights included) as you continue on the road to recovery! Weak glutes and overall good cause a mess of problems with runners.

    • Kate on February 9, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Hi Jeff! Recovery is going slowly, that’s for sure! But my PT has me doing a combination of daily stretching & strength training; hoping that I start to see results soon!

  7. 2018 IRIS Run for Refugees 5K - Kate Goes Running on February 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    […] ← My First Running Injury: IT Band Syndrome Posted in Race Recap […]

  8. […] been faithfully going to PT, and mostly faithfully doing my at-home exercises to treat my cranky IT Band. I’ve definitely seen some improvement as far as knee pain (I can go further before it hurts, it […]

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