Monday, January 7, 2013

ITB Syndrome Treatment: The Blueprint

I recognize this post may not be for everyone, but I think it will have a lot of value to people with ITB issues.  Several years ago while training for a marathon, I noticed that the tendon on the side of my knee felt like it was rubbing against my knee cap.  It was inflamed and caused a lot of friction.  The pain wasn’t unbearable, but really annoying and progressed the longer I ran.  My knee also felt really wobbly when I’d finish a run. 

I did some research and discovered I had "IT Band Syndrome," which is a common running injury.  I went to a doctor, who recommended a cortisone shot.  The short-term effect was magical, and I decided to go ahead with the marathon as planned.  I was able to get through it, but had to walk multiple times in the last few miles, almost toppling over on more than one occasion. 

I continued off and on like this… pushing through some running, getting a cortisone shot, running, cursing, running, cortisone shot, knee brace thing, running, and wondering why I wasn’t getting better.  Finally, after a couple of years dealing with this lingering frustration, I decided to do what was necessary to get better once and for all.

I went to see a physical therapist, and after I had described my issues the first thing he said was “let me see you touch your toes.”  I thought to myself "um, I beg your pardon?  I said my knee hurts.  What is this, the President's Physical Fitness challenge?"  I obliged, however, only to fall a good 12-18 inches short.  It was embarrassing how inflexible I was. 

x marks the spot

To make a long story short, the PT put me on a program that got me back running pain-free in no time.  Without further ado, here was the blueprint to recovery:

  • Take 3 weeks completely off running and biking.  This was hard for me, but the great thing about triathlon is you can work on your swim during this time.
  • Progressive hamstring stretching (simple toe touches, or attempts at touching) 3x a day for a few minutes each time.  As we all have known since the 80’s, don’t bounce on the stretch.  Just hold it.
  • Get a foam roller to break down scar tissue and assist the healing process.  I rolled both the good and bad leg 2x a day for a couple of minutes each time.
  • Resume running very gradually.  I literally started with a 5 minute jog 3x a week and only increased 2-3 minutes each week.  This may be conservative, but it worked great for me.
  • Continue with the stretching and rolling, even when you're back to running.

That was all it took.  Really simple, actually.  It takes some patience and discipline, but it's well worth it.

If you’re dealing with ITB syndrome, hopefully you can kick it soon.  Now’s a good time of year to let yourself heal.  If you’re not dealing with it, I hope you never do!  It’s a real pain in the butt (and the knee).

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