Iliotibial Band Syndrome
This sounds like a psychological condition common in NME-reading teenagers – and feels even more irritating. Your iliotibial (IT) band runs hip-to-knee along the outside of your thigh. When you run, your knee flexes and extends, which causes it to rub on the side of the femur and cause irritation. Fourteen per cent of Runner’s World survey respondents have experienced ITBS in the past year; the complaint makes up 12 per cent of all running injuries.
Are you at risk?
You’re vulnerable if you hike up your mileage too quickly, especially if you’re doing a lot of track work and downhill running or if you overpronate, have a leg length discrepancy or have weak hip abductors and gluteal muscles. “If your hip motion isn’t well controlled, your IT band gets stretched with your running stride, and that can irritate it,” says Heiderscheit.
Can you run through it?
ITBS is a stubborn injury. Take a rest day or two and cut back your mileage for a week, and you could avoid a full-blown flare-up, Price advises. Ignoring early symptoms and sticking with your usual mileage and intensity can exacerbate it.
Strengthen your hip abductors with side steps, side leg lifts and single-leg squats. Also use a foam roller before and after running: rest the outside of your thigh on the roller and roll your IT band from knee to hip. Hiking and cycling can aggravate ITBS, so swim, aqua run or use the elliptical trainer.
Prevent a relapse
Continue the exercises and foam rolling. Change directions every few laps while on a track, and limit your hill runs, says Heiderscheit. IT band issues
often clear if you can learn to shorten your stride so your weight centres on the front of the heel or the midfoot as you land. “A five to 10 per cent difference in your stride length can make a huge difference,” says Heiderscheit.
Olympic 5000m runner Bolota Asmerom had to deal with ITBS when he upped his training to 70 miles a week. “I got relief through massage plus strength and
flexibility work,” he says. “I’ve stayed injury-free since because I take care of every ache with massage and ice. I also avoid doing too much track running.”
How to proceed
Stop running: Pain on the outside of your knee that travels up and down your leg when walking down the stairs.
Run with caution: Twinges on the outside of the knee appear 10 minutes into a run, but disappear during a walk break.
Go run: Outer knee and thigh are completely pain-free - even after running on hills or on a track.