Our team of experts are here to help you: What to do when you experience ITB pain during a run.
Q: I’ve been struck down with an ITB problem – or at least I think that’s what it is? It’s sore on the outside of my knee and up the outside of my thigh to my hip. It’s my first injury. It’s so frustrating and now I’m scared to run. I have no idea what to do next. What should I do?
A: ITB problems are common in runners, but there’s a lot you can do to help yourself and make sure you get on top of it, before it becomes a long term issue. First, see a physio, sports therapist or biomechanics coach who can offer a proper diagnosis, and work out a treatment plan of massage and exercises. Secondly, don’t just rest, it won’t get better on it’s own. You need some sort of intervention – massage, treatment or foam rolling. Any sort of pain or niggle is a sign that the body is struggling to manage the load you’re placing on it, and also that there’s some sort of biomechanical imbalance – a weakness, tightness or some sort of dysfunction somewhere else. Looking at your lifestyle will also help. Sitting down all day can contribute to the problem, so try a standing desk or get moving a bit more so you’re working your muscles more. As a very early intervention, you could try some ice, or heat, whichever feels best, and kinesiology taping. Check out taping techniques by John Gibbons or through RockTape online. Then you’ll need to manage your mileage. Most injuries are a result of cranking up the mileage too soon – common in keen runners. So back off and watch how you progress your long runs in future. Make sure you increase it in tiny increments and see how your body responds. Hopefully a physio or sports therapist will give you some treatment (massage) and exercises.There are a number of things I’d recommend as a biomechanics coach:
Use a foam roller on your quads and calves. Stay off the actual ITB itself. Many runners will roll the ITB, but new research is pointing away from this. Apart from being painful, it won’t do anything to sort the root of the problem and may cause more damage. Check out videos online at Trigger Point Therapy Tuesday on YouTube for advice on how to use the Grid roller.
Use a massage ball in your glutes and side of your hip to release the tissue and get the pelvis functioning better. Again check out the TP Therapy YouTube clips.
You’ll probably find you need to work on activating and strengthening your glutes. Glute weakness (or inactivation) is one of the biggest problems in runners leading to all sorts of issues – ITB being one of the most common. Exercises such as hip hitches, side leg lifts, single leg deadlifts etc are a good place to start. You’ll find some great exercise videos on Kinetic Revolution.
Before you run, always make sure you warm up properly with a dynamic warm up. This will activate the muscles – especially the glutes – and get you running well with good form. Lunges, leg swings, instep taps, bum kicks, side stepping and some drills will make a big difference to your running and injury prevention.
Our expert, Sarah Russell, has over 20 years experience in the fitness industry as a running coach, trainer, freelance writer and athlete. She has a Masters degree in Sport Science and is a England Athletics running coach sarah-russell.co.uk