What should I do about IT?
March 12, 2010 7:14 AM   Subscribe

For the second time in a year, I'm on the shelf with a sore IT band. Can you recommend effective cardiovascular activities that won't aggravate the injury while I rehab it?

I realize now that I wasn't as vigilant about my stretching as I should have been, especially once I started feeling better after the first bout went away. That will change, but in the meantime I'd love to stay active in some way while I get myself back together.

If it matters, the soreness is closer to my hip than my knee, up toward the top of my hamstring. Thanks!
posted by shallowcenter to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
What activity got it sore in the first place? Wife of Kwine has frequent IT band trouble, and any training change usually solves it: running outside to running on treadmill, or elliptical, or bike. In other words, the soreness for her comes when she's been doing too much of one thing and needs to change the forces.
posted by Kwine at 7:39 AM on March 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, Kwine. In both instances the injury happened as a result of running outside after a few-months layoff.
posted by shallowcenter at 7:57 AM on March 12, 2010

With little physical activity in between for a few months? To me that indicates a more serious problem. My understanding is that IT band pain comes from overuse, and a few months of rest should be plenty of time for it to heal up, if it was going to on its own. I'd see a doctor.

In the particular case of running, I believe that her doctor advised some shoe experimentation, and maybe trying some heel inserts, to try to change the angle of her legs so that the band gets less irritated-or at least irritates a different spot for a while. If seeing a doctor isn't a good option and you tried the same pair of shoes each time, you might try a new pair, or some heel inserts, to see if that helps any.

In terms of actually answering your question, I think that she is generally able to swim without pain, even when it's at its worst. However, I think that these things are pretty idiosyncratic, and you'll probably have to do some experimenting to see what works for you.
posted by Kwine at 8:12 AM on March 12, 2010

I had IT band problems that eventually prevented me from competing in college. I ran 250 miles in one month, took a week off, and my IT was tighter than a violin string.

This is one stretch that really helped me loosen up the band.
posted by candasartan at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2010

IANAPT - Did you see a PT the first time you hurt yourself? The symptoms you're describing may or may not be due to IT band syndrome. Do you work an office type of job? You may have weak/shortened hamstrings, and if so, they could be your problem. ITBS pain is usually felt at/near the knee (because it's an irritation of the IT band as it passes over your lateral femoral condyle). I would recommend a visit to a PT, if not. Also, the book "Running Well" by Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors (PT) is excellent.
posted by purlgurly at 9:03 AM on March 12, 2010

If you haven't tried a Foam Roller for IT band problems, you should look into it. A 20 dollar piece of foam fixed my IT problems in a few weeks. My running friends with IT issues have all had similar "miracle" like results. I will add that my soreness was more towards the knee in the typical IT spots, it may be wise to check with a doctor to make sure that some other injury isn't the cause of your pain.
posted by HoldFast at 9:11 AM on March 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, all. I saw my family doc back in the fall after the first flare-up, and he diagnosed ITB syndrome and wrote a prescription for PT. Did that for a month--stretches and leg-strengthening exercises--and started to feel better, which led me back to running. And now, after two weeks or so of running, I'm hurting again.

Perhaps time to see an orthopedist?
posted by shallowcenter at 9:43 AM on March 12, 2010

I use #3 on this page *a lot*, although I also fold my down leg under, so I can get a better twist on my body and stretch my glutes more. I also wear a Pro-Tech strap above my knee on the affected leg until one lucky day, I forget to wear it, and I still finish my run without pain.

you can see an orthopedist if you want to, but if your problem is ITBS, your medical options (as opposed to your stretching/PT/vary your workout/wear a strap options) are few and gruesome, as in steroid shot (might work, might not, danger of permanent damage to your large joints) or surgery (also very dicey).

recommend you strap up, stretch, ice, workout more gently and be patient. ice, ice, and anti-inflammatories are your friends.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:52 AM on March 12, 2010

Are you able to go back to the PT? As a student in the field (OTA/PTA), I'm inclined to think that that might still be an appropriate way to go - but I know it's easier to do in Ontario (where I am), where PTs are primary care practitioners - no referral needed.
posted by purlgurly at 9:55 AM on March 12, 2010

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