A Runners Guide to ITBS
By Myprotein writer and personal trainer Craig McNeil
For a runner overcoming an injury is by far the most frustrating thing ever! When it comes to common running injuries Iliotibial Band syndrome (ITBS) is the most common injury suffered, that is often felt as pain on the outside of the knee. Infact, ITBS is actually reported to count for up to 12% of all running – related overuse injuries! In this article find out causes, symptoms and prevention methods when dealing with ITBS.
What is the Iliotibial Band?
The IT band is a thick tissue fascia (not muscle), that runs from the hip to the knee on the lateral (outside) of the thigh.
What are the symptoms?
If you suffer from ITBS, the symptoms can be incredibly painful and will most likely inhibit you’re training. The three main symptoms of ITBS are:
1. Sharp or burning pain on the outside of the knee when running.
2. Tenderness felt on the outside of the knee.
3. There is no particular swelling, but the band itself will be thickened.
What causes ITBS?
Over training is the most popular cause of ITBS, alongside other biomechanical issues.
When it comes to overtaining, this issue can be pretty easy to solve. By keeping a training diary you can stop pretending you’re not over training and start identifying if and when you are over training.
For biomechanical causes of ITBS… the answer is not so simple. To overcome biomechanical issues this may involve seeking expert advice from a physiotherapist and ensuring you’re wearing the right footwear while running! (Find out Here)
‘Prevention is better than cure’
When it comes to curing ITBS… apart from getting plenty of rest, stretching and foam rolling, your options can be very limited. This means recovery can be a long and torturous process- especially if you’ve gone and got yourself a running addiction! That’s why the prevention of ITBS is definitely better than a cure. To prevent ITBS (and other injuries) start by following this essential checklist:
-Change your running shoes every 300-500 miles
-Slowly increase your mileage weekly or even monthly
-Avoid training on uneven surfaces
-Before a run, a proper warm up
-After a run, a thorough cool down and stretch is important.
When it comes to your warm up and cool down- Do NOT even think about skipping either!
Pre run Warm Up:
Before you take off on your run, make sure you WARM UP; this will help with mental and physical readiness for the workout ahead. Warm ups are vital for all exercisers whereby your warm up should include relevant movements, mobility and general pulse raisers to cover most physiology aspects. By performing a warm up this will also act to increase your overall performance!
This could include:
-Jogging at low speed for ½ mile
-Ankle / Knee / Hip / Spine / Shoulder mobilisers
-Muscle activation drills
Post run Cool Down:
Completed your workout?…No time to cool down and stretch?
This is most important time to reset the body after your run.
Physically – now is the time to stretch the worked muscles.
Mentally – the cool down period is the perfect opportunity to praise / check your progress and plan any amendments to your running program.
We focused on mobilising joints with multiple muscle group movements in the pre workout warm up… but now is the time focus on the individual muscles themselves. The cool down period is important to ‘recoil’ the muscle fibres and flush out toxins which may have built up during the workout.
I’m sure we all remember the standard stretches; even from our days at school…start with those. Then, advance onto using some great tools available, for example, foam rollers. Be warned though, it may get painful! These things really get into those tricky places where it matters the most… the deep muscle layers. Our muscle layers need to be stretched after every workout to prevent ending up with tight muscles. If you don’t cool down and stretch, your muscle will become increasingly tight and eventually they will rebel… and before you know it- an injury!
Essential Running Tips:
Before / During / After – Hydration:
How many times have you pre loaded yourself with fluids just before a race? Then go searching for toilets at the very last minute… or even worse during the run?
Have you ever thought about hydration 48 hours leading up to a race? Or, how much you drink on a general day to day basis? Be aware that you need to stay hydrated each and every day…if you take on the correct amounts of fluids each day, your bladder will not react like this each time you overload on fluids! This will allow you to enjoy the start of the race and not have your legs crossed…
Stay hydrated throughout your run, when it comes to hydration you will perspire at an individual rate, whereby within sweat / perspiration, we lose water and electrolytes, which are the essential salts within our transportable system needed to feed the muscles with energy.
If your run is 60 minutes or less, you ‘ll be able to stay hydrated with just water, but if your workout continues past the 60 minute mark, consuming extra sugars / electrolytes to stay hydrated through the longer periods is often recommended. A good method to determine fluid loss, is to weigh yourself before you workout and record the difference post workout, on average each kg of weight loss, will require 1.5 litres of water.
After your workout, you need to replenish the lost fluids, and regain your optimum level of hydration; which will also enhance your recovery too!
Take Home Messages
If you take anything away from this article make sure its these top tips:
-Make time to stretch BEFORE and after your workouts.
-Listen to your body – spend time on tighter areas before they result in injuries.
-Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated EVERY day.
-Plan your drink breaks on longer runs.
-Replenish your fluids after every workout.