Recovering From IT Band Injury

I am a semi-superstitious person in that I am hesitant to say things unless I know for certain they are true for fear of jinxing whatever I am talking about.  So, saying I am recovered from my IT Band injury may be something that I never really end up saying. 

For now, let’s just say things are going well.

A quick timeline:

  • Two months ago I ran 50 miles. 
  • After a week off of running, I started running again keeping things short and easy.  
  • A week after that things were not looking good.  My IT Band was very mad.
  • I started going to ART on a weekly basis. 
  • A week later, at my 2nd ART appointment, I was told not to run for a couple weeks.
  • Two weeks after that, I was granted minimal test runs.
  • A week later that I was told I could start running again with some precautions.
  • Two and a half weeks of running later, here I am, continuing to build up, but happily running (*knock on wood*) pain free.

So what have I been doing (and continuing to do) over the last 2 months to make my pissed off IT band not so pissy and return to pain free running?  

**I obviously am in no way a medical professional or anything on that order, so if you are injured or feeling pain, please go see someone.  This is just what worked for me!

photo 1

Resting

I think the most important (and most difficult!) part of recovery was completely resting.  I left the running to Emma!  When I was told not to run for a couple weeks, I took that very seriously.  Although some people recommended cycling or other activities to help maintain my fitness (and sanity), I was hesitant to do anything.  I personally would rather lose a couple weeks of fitness, but be ready to run sooner on a fully healed IT band, rather than continue to irritate it through other means.  But that’s just me.

So besides a couple walks, I pretty much did nothing until I was told otherwise.

April 031

ART –Active Release Technique

Painful magic.  I have been a longtime believer in ART (this link explains what it’s all about), so when I felt the pain in my knee and IT band area, I knew right where to go. 

My Dr. did a bunch of assessments to check to see what was wrong and also listened to exactly what I said hurt and when it hurt.  At first he was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to take any time off of running, but after my second visit he told me it was time to rest. 

I continued to go to weekly appointments and he worked through all the spots in my leg.  Each week I was cleared to do a little bit more, starting with a walk/run and eventually a full on return to running.  I haven’t had to continue my visits, but will go back in a couple weeks for a check up and maintenance.   

May 319

Foam Rolling

Back in 2008 when I was training for my second marathon, I had my first small battle with my IT band.  That was when I first discovered the foam roller and really, the two seem to go hand in hand.  When you hear IT band pain, immediately a recommendation to foam roll follows.  I love The Grid foam roller and highly recommend it over the standard foam roller.

I have been foam rolling and using The Stick in the morning before I run, as well as in the evening.  It’s a time consuming annoying process, but at this point it is very much worth pain free runs.  I will be continuing this for a while.

photo 4

Icing/Heating

When I was first told to go on some test runs, it was recommended that I heat my IT band up and stretch/roll it before I run (heat makes it easier to stretch!), then ice after.  I have been following this routine on almost every run since then.  I do have to get up a little bit earlier before I go on morning runs, but so far it has been worth it.  I even used an unused dog poop bag (above) for my post-run bag of ice last week.  Sometimes you just have to get creative!

I have been icing pretty much every night too, just to be extra cautious during this healing process.

photo 3

Returning to Running

When I was finally given the green light to return to running, I took things slow, both in mileage and pace.  I was so nervous of doing too much too soon and pissing off my leg again. 

The first week back I did 2 2 mile runs and a 3 mile run.  The next week I did 4 4 mile runs.  Last week I upped it and did a couple 5 milers and an 8 miler for 25 miles total.  This week I am increasing a little bit more.  So far so good!

After those first couple runs back, I have noticed that my fitness and endurance are returning faster than I anticipated, even with my cautious return.  My legs and body feel stronger with each run and my mind isn’t as scared anymore. 

Going Forward

I am hoping that with continued patience and commitment to all the things above, that I will continue to run pain free while increasing my mileage back up.  I am also working on adding in at least one day of yoga/stretching to help keep me strong and injury free going forward. 

Although at the time it felt like the end of the world and like I was going to be off of running forever, my time off did go by fast.  Once I got over the sad part, I was able to appreciate and take advantage of all my free time. 

Above all, this injury and time off made me appreciate running in a new way with a new set of eyes.  It also gave me a whole new perspective on injured runners and those who have injuries that last a really long time.  I knew that this would teach me a lot, even though I would rather not have to learn, but in the end, I know it will all only make me a stronger runner.

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27 Responses to Recovering From IT Band Injury

  1. Kris June 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    I’ve heard so many great things about The Grid roller. I want to try that one out once my current foam roller goes flat. Keeping my fingers crossed you can continue to come back feeling healthy!

  2. ali June 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    so glad you are running again. thanks for the inspiration. i am struggling with an annoying case what i think are shin splints and can’t wait to be running freely and joyfully again…instead of thinking about my shin…..

  3. Tia@RunnerMom June 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    So glad things are getting better for you. It sounds like you have done everything right. Thanks for including your rehab timeline and exactly what you didn. One of my running buddies had a similar IT band injury and she found ART to be the best thing ever. She drove 2 hours to get it (closest ART doc) but she said it was SO worth it!

  4. Abby @ Change of Pace June 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I’m happy things are on the up-swing!
    I’ve had major IT band issues that were misdiagnosed for months. I’ve found the foam roller to be my biggest help. I do it twice a day along with stretching. Although it is time consuming, it’s so worth it!

  5. Monika June 8, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    I am glad that things are looking better and hope it never comes back!
    I am also slowly getting back to running. After a horrible horrible year last year (I have had ITB problem for last 3+ year and it got completely out of control last year when I was virtually not able to run except for 3 months in summer) I am glad to say that I have been running for 3 months now.
    However, I am trying to constrain my excitement because in 2010 I was able to run for 7 months straight before it hit again in 2011.
    I agree that foam roller works like magic!
    Also therapy, but not little strengthening exercises, those do not do a thing for me. I mean what helps me is a hands-on manipulation therapy that leaves me in tears and with bruises.
    I also used to ice after my runs because that was the only way to keep pain in check. However, I realized that icing was not really helping me. It only made my ITB and nerves numb and I was not feeling pain, it was not really calming down the inflammation. Once my leg thaw the pain was there again. So I stopped icing because it gave me a fake feeling that everything was ok eventhough it was not and I would do more than my ITB could really stand.
    I also never run downhills now. It is a huge no no no for me.
    I went to a running guru and he advised to change my runnig gait. I did that and it seemed to be working as well because now my ITB does not have to do the job of some other muscles I have not been using and should have.
    I have also decided to stay away from track now and see whether that helps. I love track and I have been in denial for last 2 years that running on an oval could be a trigger.

    Hapy running!

  6. Rhona @ Redwinerunner.co.uk June 8, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    Very glad to hear that your injury is improving. After I did my first ultra I also experienced ITB issues – I wanted to get some of my speed back and found that speed training really inflamed my left ITB and made walking and running agony. Sports massage really helped, alongside the foamrolling but in terms of long-term recovery and prevention (this injury has happened to me before this occurrance) I am incorporating much more leg/glute strengthening exercises and forcing myself to attend a spin class once a week in addition to yoga for crosstraining.
    I also am keen to transition to minimalist footwear within the next year – so many people seem to overcome reoccurring ITB injuries by doing this so I figure it’s worth a shot.
    All this aside – I think the clear point is for me, ultra running does no harm; it’s speeding up and going back to the roads which is dangerous!

  7. christina June 8, 2012 at 5:42 am #

    Good to hear that your IT is cooperating … :) Keep it up!

  8. Ricole Runs June 8, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    Yay!!! So happy your ITB is cooperating more and you’re getting some runs in! I’m sure many many people will find this post helpful. I had similar results to yours- I really needed full rest (though I swam) for 2 weeks to help mine get on the mend.

  9. Jamie in Arkansas June 8, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    This is such great news!! I hope your recovery continues to go well! :)

  10. Marlene June 8, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    GREAT post. This will be an excellent resource to many, I am sure. I hated seeing you benched, but you have come through will flying colours thanks to a lot of patience and discipline. Let’s hope you NEVER have to worry about this again.

    And thanks for the reminder that I need to get my foam roller out again. Why do I only use that thing once I start to feel the twinges?!

  11. Page June 8, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Such fantastic news. Welcome back; we’ve missed you.

  12. Shanna June 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    So happy to hear that you’re doing better now! I have the grid foam roller and absolutely love it! I’ve seen a few people mention using the stick in addition/in place of the foam roller. What exactly do you use the stick for and how is it different from, or supplement the foam roller? I’m getting back in to running after having to take 3 months off (lovely metatarsal stress fracture).

    • Aron June 10, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      I use the stick a lot for my calves but also for my ITB… its a little easier to transport and sometimes I can get in to those trouble spots a little deeper with it since I use my hands for pressure. Probably just a preference thing? Try one out if you go to a race expo or running store – I see them around a lot!

  13. Meghan @ Run With Meg June 10, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Glad to hear you are up and running again! The IT band is such a frustrating injury. I have been struggling with it since my April marathon but have finally been making a comeback with a lot of rest and PT. I have been eyeing those Grid foam rollers, I just have a standard one and my stick. I may need to check them out.

  14. runtothefinish June 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    i actually think one of the biggest parts to getting back is overcoming the fear of reinjury. especially since running is so mental

    glad you are slowly but surely finding your way back!

  15. Dylan @ Dylanrunstodisney June 11, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    Just wondering, how firm is your grid foam roller? My roller was pretty much destroyed after about a month of rolling. Heh, it was also only $20. :) Thinking about investing in a nicer one, but would rather not have it get all bent out of shape after a month like this one.

  16. Phil Robinson June 11, 2012 at 4:45 am #

    Both of my 20 something marathon running daughters, my wife, and myself have all had the ITB with big time pain that prevented running. We did one common thing that got us back to running pain free for some years now. We use the 2 best stretching exercises for the side of the knee to the hip area. We hold the stretch for 3 minutes. The ITB is tough like a piece of leather and it takes a while. We do this before a run. I could really skip doing it for every run, because the band is not tight any more. But if I missed stretching it for a few days I could sense the tightness starting to slowly creep back. Because of this, we have had no ITB running pain in years for all 4 of us.

    • Robyn June 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

      Hi Phil, just curious…what are those two miracle stretches? :) Also, great post Aron! You are clearly a very smart, sensible runner…and it’s the reason you made a great recovery!

      • Phil Robinson June 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

        Hi, just finished the 2 stretches. Since my oldest daughter started these, she has done the Myrtle Beach Marathon and the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon with no injuries before or after. She is signing up for the Kiawah Marathon. Let me see if I can find these stretches on the internet to send you. If not, I will describe them. Also, we are ex b-ball players, now runners. See my web site at http://www.fullridevideo.com. Phil.

      • Phil Robinson June 16, 2012 at 6:18 am #

        I’m a little late Robyn, but here are the 2 stretches that worked for us. In the first link, we do self stretch #2.
        http://www.nismat.org/ptcor/itb_stretch

        In the second link, we use the top or first picture. You can roll left or right slightly to isolate the stretch area. It gets from the periformis to down the ITB.
        http://lrgoodman.hubpages.com/hub/The-Piriformis-Stretch

        The key for us was to hold the stretches 3 minutes. At first this was not easy, but now there is nothing to it since we are not as tight. A physical therapist later told us that the time of a stretch is a major key.

  17. Bethany June 11, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    Wow, great post. Very important post! Sorry to hear you have been having problems but thank goodness you are on the mend and things are improving. When I ran my first 50 my running was trash for about 1 month after and it took me awhile to get back to where I was prior to the race. My 2nd 50 was 2 weeks ago and what a difference from the 1st one to the 2nd.
    I love to see smart posts like this…we all know what we should be doing but it’s really nice to see someone actually doing it! And posting about it! Glad you are doing better. Keep it up!

  18. Kashi June 11, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    So good to hear your ITB issues are hopefully behind you! The rest is so frustrating, but you should be proud that you were able to make yourself do it. So many runners just don’t have the discipline to rest and properly heal!

  19. Susan - Nurse on the Run June 19, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    Super late commenting here, but I’ve been there (recently!) with injury, so I know what you’re talking about! With all of my runs lately, I’ve been nervous heading out for fear of injury coming back…it definitely makes you appreciate all those runs, especially when you can get back to it. The patience required to get through injury is huge, but so worth it in the end. So excited that you’re back to running!

  20. Lisa Eirene (@LisaEirene) July 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    In 2010 I ran the Hood to Coast Relay race and I took a week off afterward, then went for a run and realized I was injured. I could tell it wasn’t just the normal aches and pains. It was real. Yep–IT Band. The bastard! I had to take 2 months off from running. It did end up being a good thing because I started strength training to stay sane and realized just how much I’d been neglecting my body and muscles. I got strong because of it.

    Getting back into running after an injury sucks. Every ache and pain made me paranoid. I was slow. I was nervous. I am trying to get back into running once again (after a second break).

  21. Hugh April 11, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    In 2009 after hard training all year for the marathon my right IT began bothering me. What I didn’t know was that it was slowly being injured and I didn’t know you had to take time off to heal it but I kept running it and soon it got so bad that I had to one day just tell myself that your not running this year. I read up on the different injuries and found that I had developed one of the main injuries and so I took a few months off to heal it first with zero running. Then I began using something called ‘The Stick’. It worked very well for me as I would use it after long runs during my 2010 campaign. By the time I got to the marathon in November my IT was so strong that I was able to finish the marathon. I know people use the foam roller as well and I know that helps a lot also. One note, when I got to about the 23 mile mark (after all I never ran 23 miles before that) my IT was acting up a bit again and a man standing on a corner in the Bronx was holding several stick rollers that he was offering anyone who might of needed to use one. It’s as if he knew were people would start breaking down and so I stopped and gave myself a quick roll and there I was off again. It helped and I was forever grateful for his assistance.

  22. lululemon May 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Even yoga can not fix that problem.Do you have any other tips to share with our readers about staying healthy and fit as a busy mom on the go?

  23. tons of instagram followers January 23, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Hello there! This article could not be written any better!
    Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I’ll forward this information to him.

    Fairly certain he’ll have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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