I am somewhat of an authority in the area of IT Band syndrome, in the same way that Liz Taylor is an authority on divorce. One could do worse than listen to her advice, though it could be construed as practicing law without a license.
Experience is a great teacher, and experience is what I have when it comes to ITB syndrome. But "experience" is that thing you get when you don't get what you want. What I wanted was to run. What I got was four years of experience preparing me to write this article.
I haven't had this problem (the syndrome, not multiple marriages) for quite awhile, knock on wood, but when I did have it, it stayed for a lot longer than I thought it would — more than any other injury I've ever had in any sport.
During that period of time I came to the conclusion that my running days were over. I gave up the sport entirely, certain that I would never return to it. And this was difficult, because this is back in the days when I was actually a fast runner.
I had run the mile in 4:19 as a 16-year-old high-schooler and the future was bright. Then ITB syndrome struck and, try what I might, I'd run my last klick for the balance of my teen years.
In an effort to keep from ending up behind bars, I shall only tell my own story. Do not try this at home; go see your doctor before entering into any form of fitness program, employees of Slowtwitch.com not eligible to enter, and remember that I'm an experienced test driver on a closed course.
In other words, I'm only telling you about my own IT band, I'm not telling you about yours.
The iliotibial band is a long tendon that runs from your hip to just below your knee. It connects to a hip muscle called the tensor fascia lata (the TFL) and the other end connects to your lower leg. It helps performs "abduction."
Your wife's leg performs an abduction when you're standing next to her and you say something impolitic. That pain you feel when the side of her foot whacks your lower leg is due to her TFL flexing, and the tendon that is her IT band carries that "shut up, you idiot" message to a spot down her leg deemed by God and nature to be a profitable place along the lever so as to cause it to shoot straight sideways with maximal force.
She also uses the TFL muscle — and its ITB tendon — when she's laid out on the floor in front of a Jane Fonda workout tape, on her side, head propped up by her hand so as to get a less-sideways view of Jane, while raising her straight leg up into the air.
If you're performing abduction properly your entire leg moves as a unit, as the knee doesn't allow the lower leg to flex outward to the side, only backward.
The heck of it is that abduction is of only a very minor use to the triathlete, kinesiologically speaking. Nowhere during the swim, bike or run is one likely to say, "Ahh, yes, my ability to perform powerful and repeated use of my abductors is what got me to the podium today."
Yet it's just this damnable tendon that can cause you enough grief to keep you off your feet — or in some cases off your bike — for a long time.
With me, the problem was confined to running. I had no problem riding a bike, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and even playing tennis. I could abuse my lower limbs in every conceivable way, and the one and only thing I was kept from doing was the one thing I adored doing above all else.
Furthermore, when I was eventually able to run again, I contracted the darn thing in the other knee. Fortunately that spate of ITB Syndrome was short-lived, and I shall describe my own process of both prophylactic behavior and treatment after-the-fact.
I am an overpronator. I do not know if people like myself enjoy a greater incidence of ITB syndrome than others, but I suspect so. I have little doubt that in my case the problem took the circuitous route of a problematic footfall, thereby wreaking havoc with my hips, at which point my hips said, "back atcha" and returned the package from whence it came.
On its way southward the insult found a resting place just at the outside of my knee, on a horizontal plane from the center of my kneecap.
I became an overpronator because I was born that way, or because I spent much of my youth running around shoeless on the beach, like a South Sea native. I spent so much of my youth so-clad that the rubber tire tread on the bottom of a juarache sandal was no tougher than my own foot leather. I suspect that all this unsupported running caused my ankles to cave in to some degree.
Add to this the fact that when I finally did start running serious miles, as a freshman in high school, all of them were run in a paper-thin shoe called the Tiger Marathon, which gave me about as much support as you'd get if you could somehow pull the sock liner out of the running shoes of today and build a shoe around just that.
With a history like that, it's not hard to see how anatomical insults could accrue. Could you blame any joint from giving the rest of your body the proverbial finger, saying, "I'm sore as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"?
Regardless of the cause of my own ITB syndrome, here is what I did and continue to do ...
Check out Slowtwitch's full beginning tri-training guide