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If you’re a runner, you may have come across the term IT band, short for iliotibial band, which is a thick band of fascia that runs down the outside of your thigh and attaches to your knee. IT band pain, also known as IT band syndrome, is a common running injury that can be frustratingly hard to shake. In this episode of the podcast, we aim to demystify IT band pain and provide you with evidence-based information on what works and what doesn’t.
Foam Rolling and Massage Therapies: Temporary Relief at Best
One common treatment method for IT band pain is foam rolling, which involves using a foam roller to self-massage the IT band. While form rolling can reduce muscle tone temporarily, it may not be very useful for long-distance running. We don’t recommend foam rolling as it only provides short-term relief. Massage therapies like foam rolling only have a temporary effect that lasts a few minutes.
Stretching: Evidence Lacking
You might be surprised to learn that there is no evidence supporting stretching exercises as a helpful intervention for IT band pain. A Google search might give you some ideas, but Google search results are not very informative and show passive therapies with little evidence.
What Works for IT Band Pain?
Unfortunately, there is no single intervention that works for everyone with IT band pain. You may want to reconsider race plans and reschedule if you are experiencing IT band pain, especially if you are planning to do higher volumes of training or a longer race. Spending a lot of time and energy on interventions that may not make much difference may not be worth it if the pain is severe and impacting your ability to train. Physiotherapy or rehabilitation interventions might not be effective for resolving issues and might not be better than just waiting it out.
IT band pain can be a frustrating injury for runners, but there is a lack of research for effective interventions. Foam rolling, massage therapies, and stretching have weak evidence for their effectiveness, while strength training interventions targeting specific muscles may not work to reduce pressure on the IT band. Modifying training due to injuries is part of becoming a more intelligent runner, with consistency being the key. By taking a step back, approaching rehabilitation sensibly, and listening to your body, you can avoid significant injuries and successfully train for years without injury.
- Friede 2022: Conservative treatment of iliotibial band syndrome in runners: Are we targeting the right goals?
- Geiseir 2021: Current Clinical Concepts: Synthesizing the Available Evidence for Improved Clinical Outcomes in Iliotibial Band Impingement Syndrome
- [00:00:00] Intro
- [00:00:23] “Learn Running Fundamentals and Avoid Injuries”
- [00:09:48] “Understanding, Preventing, and Treating IT Band Pain”
- [00:10:41] “Google Results Fall Short in Researching Injuries”
- [00:12:00] The Debate Over Foam Rolling for IT Band Pain
- [00:13:11] “The Temporary Benefits of Foam Rolling and Stretching”
- [00:16:04] “Why Ice and Painkillers Won’t Solve Running Pain”
- [00:17:03] “Can Gluteal Muscle Strengthening Fix Knee Injuries?”
- [00:20:09] “The Reality of Physiotherapy for IT Band Pain”
- [00:30:06] “Managing IT Band Pain for Race Success”
- [00:33:01] “Training Consistency Key to Injury-Free Running Journey”
Q & A
What is IT Band Syndrome?
- IT Band Syndrome is a condition that manifests with pain on the outside of the thigh.
Does foam rolling help with IT Band Syndrome?
- Foam rolling may temporarily reduce muscle tension, but it only has a short-term effect and may not be helpful for longer endurance activities like running.
What interventions are effective for IT Band Syndrome?
- There is no strong evidence to support any specific intervention for IT Band Syndrome, but strength training targeting specific muscles (such as the gluteal muscles) may help alter running technique and reduce pressure on the IT band.
Can stretching exercises help with IT Band Syndrome?
- There is no evidence to support that stretching exercises are helpful for IT Band Syndrome.
When should someone reconsider their race plans if they are experiencing IT Band pain?
- It is suggested to reconsider race plans and reschedule if you are experiencing IT Band pain, especially if you are planning to do higher volumes of training or a longer race.
Are painkillers or ice helpful for IT Band Syndrome?
- Ice or anti-inflammatories do not have significant utility when treating IT Band Syndrome, unless they allow the person to run further.
Is Foam rolling effective for treating IT Band Syndrome?
- There is weak evidence for the effectiveness of form rolling for IT Band Syndrome, and the speaker’s opinion is more towards not bothering with it.
Are physiotherapy or rehabilitation interventions effective for resolving IT Band Syndrome?
- There is poor evidence to support that interventions are better than the natural history of the issue, and physiotherapy or rehabilitation interventions might not be effective for resolving IT Band Syndrome.
How can someone modify their training to avoid significant injuries?
- Modifying training due to injuries is part of becoming a more intelligent runner. Consistent training with modifications leads to better long-term performance.