I managed to win the battle against laziness last week. However, on my second run of the weekend, I was attacked by the dreaded runner’s knee (or ITBS: iliotibial band syndrome). It is characterized by a sharp or grinding pain along the outer edge of the knee, and is often (and in my case) too intense to continue running with.
So I took the week off running and researched this painful syndrome. As it turns out, I could go to a physical therapist and pay gobs of money to get massages and do hip-strength exercises, or I could buy a foam roller for $15 and do those same exercises at home. Guess which one I picked?
If you are new to exercising or running, or have never heard of a foam roller before, you should seriously consider investing the money in one. It is probably the best $15 I’ve ever spent. The foam roller assists in myofascial release (that’s fancy talk for a deep tissue massage). It looks like a firm, outsized pool noodle, and you use bodyweight and gravity to roll different muscle groups along the roller, which breaks up knots and scar tissue within the muscles. And, it hurts so good.
For ITBS specifically, it helps release the IT band, which is the source of the pain in my knee.
In addition to foam rolling once or twice a day, I have been doing hip strength exercises to strengthen the muscles around the IT band. This is the sequence I’ve been doing all week:
- Lateral leg lifts
- Side Shuffles
- Hip Hikes
- Iron Cross
I do these on both sides, about 12 reps each. The key is to focus on targeting the muscles supporting your hips.
After a week of foam rolling and three days of these exercises my knee pain is noticeably diminished. It’s not totally gone, but it’s getting better. I’m hoping to be able to go for a short run on Sunday.
If you are suffering from ITBS, there are also compression bands you can put above the knee to hold the IT band in place, but that’s more of a band aid fix. Although, if my knee pain continues past Sunday, I may get one and add it to my hip-strength and foam rolling routine.
Anyone else out there battle this irritating overuse injury?
PS Please do not use this information to diagnose any aches or pains you might be experiencing. I have compiled this information based on research I have done as well as my own experiences. Always consult a doctor before adopting a new fitness routine.