Back On The Bus: IT Band Woes

Illiotibial band syndrome is one of the more annoying running injuries you can get. It’s like having a pit bull clenched into the side of your knee. I can say this with accuracy because it’s exactly what I have right now.

Here’s the Wikipedia description of IT band syndrome:

“ITBS is one of the leading causes of lateral knee pain in runners. The iliotibial tract is a superficial thickening of tissue on the outside of the thigh, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The band is crucial to stabilizing the knee during running, moving from behind the femur to the front while walking. The continual rubbing of the band over the lateral femoral epicondyle, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of the knee during running may cause the area to become inflamed.”

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Indeed, inflamed. And the process of escaping from IT band pain is, for my part anyway, a matter of throwing everything plus the kitchen sink at it. Ice, stretching, massage, Advil, Aleve, corrective insoles, strengthening exercises and choosing anti-inflammatory foods—whole fruits, berries, walnuts, soy milk, green leafy vegetables, green tea, water.

When IT syndrome digs its teeth in, it seems like you can throw all of the above at it yet nothing moves. I was initially struck by it while trying to carry out a session of 5 x 1200s (although I imagine it had been brewing long before). I was just about to start the third one when the pain sliced in and after about a quarter-mile the leg seem to refuse to push off. It shut down.

I tried running later in the day (you say your little prayer and hope that the previous problems evaporate as if just a bad dream) but got myself stuck into one of those injury-fandango specials: 20 minutes into the run I had to stop and walk back.

I iced my knee about five times a day, bought a foam roller and reminisced about how well I was training. The halcyon days of before I had to go through an obstacle course just so I could get through a half hour run.

I imagine if I learned anything from this experience (the pain has receded) is that although during the week that I iced and stretched and babied my right knee in what seemed to be a worthless effort actually paid off. I have a long run this weekend. This will be the acid test.

Follow former 2:38 marathoner, and current editor-in-chief of Inside Triahlon magazine, TJ Murphy as he trains for his return to the marathon at the 2009 ING New York City Marathon. TJ will be getting “back on the bus” of marathon training with the guidance of elite coach Terrence Mahon under the Asics Editor’s Run NYC Marathon program. Learn more about Terrence, his athletes and his programs at

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