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!!
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!
NEXT BIG RACE New Haven Road Race
Most Recent Run:
This was my first official half marathon: The Flower City Challenge-- I also PR'd my 5K time!