My Battle With The IT Band Monster

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile but it’s been quite the battle with the IT band monster. I wish I could have given updates about what I was doing to make it better but literally I was doing everything I could. For awhile I thought nothing was working and I was going to done with running FOREVER. Slightly dramatic, yes, but I never imagined a running injury like this. Or being out of running for as long as I was.

How it started:

It kinda started out of no where. I went for a 15 mile run and around mile 10 I noticed a slight pulling feeling in my hamstring. Weird, never had pain there before. Went home, stretched, foam rolled and took it easy for a couple days and was fine. Then before I knew it, I was having pain in my butt (piriformis) and back. Finally, I started feeling pain in my knee (IT band) but by then it was already too late. I kept trying to foam roll and losen it up but it was to the point where foam rolling was making it worse! The IT band was too aggitated and needed a break and here I was foam rolling it (think of it like a scab you keep picking that then won’t heal).

What I did:

Well first I was super dumb and kept running on it. So dumb Jess. I had some of my best training and was putting out some awesome times and was not ready to give up on the marathon I had been training my guza off for. Finally, after a race (where I puked and still PR’d), I was in so much pain I could barely walk and knew I was done done. I felt a pang, pull thingy in my IT band knee area. It hurt and was super scary all at once. It was real bad. So I iced and applied heat. I heard somewhere that the mixture of the two makes the muscles expand and contract and then makes it better. No idea where I heard this from but it does make it feel better. I even took ice packets to work so I could ice during the day.

Taming the beast.

I went to see a Neural Muscular Therapy specialist. She made everything feel better and I could run again but it wasn’t a long term fix. I would have had to go every week for the rest of my running life (which I am planning on being forever so it would have been expensive). I went and got sports massages, which was a huge help. Really loosened up the area. Sometimes I would go in barely able to walk and would come out walking like a normal person again.

I took time off. It sucked. Seriously, hated every minute of it. I went and saw a doctor who basically told me to find a new hobby ( I won’t be going back to him) I took off a solid 2 weeks where I did nothing. After 2 weeks, I started on the elliptical, slowly just to test it out. No pain so I continued this for a few weeks. After 8 weeks I started to run again. Slowly. Like extremely slowly and only for 10 minutes. After not running for 8 weeks and barely running before that, I was struggling. I knew what it was like for people who just started running. I was starting from scratch and it was hard!

Death face hard.

Believe it or not I was still having trouble. Luckily, I knew a local runner, who was a PT and worked around my crazy work schedule to see me. He did some Active Release Treatment (ART), taught me a ton of strengthening exercises (which I do religiously) and stretched me out like crazy. The best part was he told me to continue running! Holla! I had been keeping up with running 10 minutes about 4 days a week so I built on that. I added 5 mins every week and never paid attention to speed (Well, I paid attention and it was slow and depressing). I never set out to run a certain number of miles, I set out and ran for time instead. Before I knew it I was back up to an hour of running and could finally start racing again.

What I do now:

I can now foam roll again now that my IT band isn’t all flared up. I foam roll a couple days a week but not everyday. I get a massage once a month to keep my legs loose (I’ve heard blood flow to the area really helps). I stretch on my own and have Ryan stretch me a couple times a week. I continue to do strengthening excerises and continue work on my core (I’ve always worked on my core, it’s so easy to do while watching TV at night). I don’t run everyday or run my body into the ground like I used to.  I miss being able to do that but I’d rather be heathly. I run 4-5 days a week and spin a couple days too.

Running makes me happy.

Am I 100%:

No. I still have a long way to go. I still have days where no matter how good I take care of my IT band, I still have issues. I take rest days whenever I need to and never run when it hurts or feels aggitated. Hopefully, one day I will not have an IT band issues at all but for now I enjoy just being able to run at all. I am seeing huge improvements in my running since September. I started doing speed work again, I am back to racing, have even busted out some speedy 10 milers and looking forward to a half in December.

Has anyone else experienced a running set back? How did you handle it? Ice cream, tears, beer?

8 thoughts on “My Battle With The IT Band Monster

  1. The hardest “thing” for a runner to do is: Rest. No rolling, no light tempo runs … Rest. Or if you like? You can do as I did, press on and have a knee replacement procedure at the ripe old age of 36?!?
    Take care and please be well! 🙂

  2. IT bands are a bitch. Seriously. I still have trouble with mine from last year! Now I know better and give it rest right away when I feel it flaring up. I wasn’t so smart before. 🙂
    Glad you’re feeling better!

  3. I understand your frustration, I am dealing with back to back injuries (hamstring which has recovered, but now pes anserine bursistis which is related to SUPER TIGHT adductor muscles). My sports chiro also does ART on my leg and graston scraping; its taken a couple months, but I am not in constant ache pain anymore, just little twinges here and there. Still not running, but I’m exercising 3 days a week with minimal issue (unlike before)!

    My chiro was just talking about IT issues today because I asked him whether Kinesiology tape would help with my PAB. He said that it would and he really liked the brand Rock Tape because it comes in 4″ wide tape that are great for IT band issues. Try some out! Rock Tape has lots of informational videos for ‘how to’ (can also youtube it), but maybe that will help during your runs to minimize pain and injury while on the road to complete recovery!

  4. the IT Band Beast needs to pack its bags and go home already! but really, so happy for you that you have been able to get back at it 🙂 keep training smarter, not harder and you will be rewarded.

  5. I’m glad that IT band is finally working itself out! Before I knew what ITBS was I saw my primary care doc for my knee pain, and when I asked her what to do, she said “take up swimming.” So I know how you feel about the doctor that told you to just get a new hobby. Don’t go back to that guy!

  6. thanks for sharing your injury & recovery journey. girl do i know that IT SUCKS. as hard as it is to finally admit “okay, i’m injured, time for a break” i’m glad that you did…. even though i missed your weekly race recaps. glad you are becoming healthy again. it really really really does feel like starting over when you start running again. but at the same time it’s cool, because you feel like the miles you are building up on… are HEALTHY… and you are more educated about your body… what it needs. etc .

  7. No IT band injuries for me, but I’ve definitely suffered from other running pains (stress reaction – ow!) and like you, treated it with tears, beers, and of course ice cream! Keep up the foam rolling and massage – can you share the name of your massage therapist with me? Once I’m officially a CLE resident I’ll need a go-to person. Looking forward to connecting with you and the Ohio running community 🙂

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