Most runners are no stranger to a little pain. But what happens when it persists? It begins as an ache down the outside of your thigh just above the knee. You run through the pain. Soon, you are experiencing full-out knee pain, even when you aren’t running.
Have your knees finally given out? Are your running days over? Suddenly you hear the voices of everybody preaching ellipticals over the years…
The Good News
The odds are good that you are simply experiencing ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome) This is the most common complaint among runners, and it actually has a pretty simple fix.
The primary symptoms of ITBS are pain and swelling on the outside of the knee, so many runners mistakenly believe they have a knee injury.
If you read the information below and follow through on it, we will have you back to full stride in no time.
Common Treatments Don’t Actually FIX Anything…
If you know anything about ITBS, then you know R.I.C.E. (Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.) is the typical recommendation for treatment. The problem is that it doesn’t FIX anything.
Modern medicine is famous for temporarily addressing SYMPTOMS, but NOT CAUSES. The case is no different here.
Because of the location of the pain, the IT Band itself has been thought to be the cause. Therefore, the common treatments are aimed at addressing only the IT Band. As you will see, this is a very limited viewpoint.
Your goal should be to find the actual cause, and eliminate it. This article will show you how to do both.
The Root Cause Of IT Band Pain
Imagine this scenario… Two men (Bert and Ernie) tie a rope to your knee and begin pulling you toward them. You stand your ground. Your knee hurts where the rope is tied. What is the actual cause of the pain? Your knee? The rope? Bert and Ernie? Keep this scenario in your mind as you read on…
At The Muscle Medics, we are anatomy nerds, but you probably aren’t, so we will make the anatomy lesson as easy as possible. Understanding the structures that are causing your pain is essential in eliminating it. So pay attention now, and soon you will be back to running PAIN-FREE!
DISCLAIMER: This is the EASY VERSION. If you are wanting a more thorough and scientific description, please view the DETAILED VERSION.
The IT Band
A major function of the IT Band is to keep you from falling over when you are on one foot.
How Does The IT Band Keep Us From Falling Sideways?
Meet Bert and Ernie. These two muscles connect into the IT Band. When Standing on one leg, they contract violently to keep your body upright.
Why Is This Important For Runners?
When running, you are only going one direction, forward. This means Bert and Ernie have to work extra hard to keep you from falling to one side. Over, and over, and over.
Imagine how many steps you take in a single running session…
Remember, every time you land on that leg, Bert and Ernie pull really hard on the IT Band, which in turn pulls on your knee. Basically, the muscles are trying to contract, but they can’t go anywhere because your leg is planted on the ground.
Muscles Aren’t Designed For This Kind Of Abuse!
When muscles are repeatedly tightened up, but not allowed to fully contract, bad things happen. The muscle begins to grow unwanted (and unhealthy!) tissue that hardens the muscle. And not in that good, toned way you were hoping for…
If you have been running for some time, the chances are pretty good that your Bert and Ernie muscles look like this.
Once Bert and Ernie reach this state, they pull on your IT Band, even when you’re not running. In this hardened form, they cause CONSTANT PRESSURE and strain on all structures involved. This includes your knees.
This visual should illustrate the situation perfectly…
Ultimately, the pressure isn’t coming from the IT Band itself. Solidified, afflicted MUSCLES are constantly pulling on it, resulting in inflammation and pain around the knee.
How Do We Eliminate The Pain?
Let’s revisit the scenario of Bert and Ernie pulling on the rope. To stop the pain you have three options:
1) Ice, rest, compress, or inject steroids into where the rope is connected to numb the pain.
2) Cut part of the rope to relieve some of the tension (They actually DO this to the IT Band!)
3) “Convince” Bert and Ernie to stop pulling on the rope! (Maybe with a swift kick in a tender spot?)
Obviously, option number 3 makes the most sense.
We have found that by “convincing” the affected muscles to stop pulling on the IT Band, the resulting pain decreases almost instantaneously.
How Do We Effectively “Convince” The Muscles?
Once a muscle has reached the chronically hardened state pictured earlier, there is only ONE way you can fix it. You have to manually break down the tissue to restore proper blood flow, and your body will heal it back with healthy muscle tissue. After the unhealthy tissue is broken up, the pressure on the IT Band dissipates, along with the pain.
Stretching alone doesn’t work. Imagine stretching a rubber band with a knot in the middle; the sides will stretch, but the knot remains stuck. The affected tissue has to be broken down directly.
This Is Where We Come In…
With over 12 years of clinical experience in the pain-relief industry, we have seen and fixed this condition countless times. We even have a routine named after it!
By making an appointment and getting checked out by us now, you’ll:
- Get out of pain faster
- Find out whether or not there is already knee damage
- Prevent permanent knee damage by clearing it up early
- Learn techniques you can do at home to help you recover more quickly
- Get back to running pain-free ASAP!
Remember the best surgery is always the one you prevented. If you are still in the beginning stages, the time to act is NOW.
As always, please feel free to email or call us with any concerns about your specific situation. We will do our best to answer any questions you may have.
The Muscle Medics