That darn IT band…

I would say the one time an injury has stopped me in my tracks (training and almost racing) was my last bout with IT band syndrome.  I was preparing for my first 70.3 World Championships triathlon.  About a month out from the race on one of my long training runs, I started to feel that dreaded sore, achiness rearing its ugly head on the outside of my Lt. knee.  Like most athletes, you keep running and assess as you go along the run (otherwise, it’s a LONG walk home).  I knew what this pain was from the other two times I had experienced it (separate bouts on each knee).  About 2.5 miles from home, the pain grew to be too much, and the thoughts of the race entered my mind.  I came up lame.  I run/walked the last bit to make it back home.  It was bad.  The outside of my knee was so sore having pushed it and I limped into the office later that day.  

Wait, the PT isn’t supposed to be limping around at the office, but I was.  I rested it (little to no running in the 4 weeks prior to the big race), and did all the things I knew to do to hopefully be able to run on race day.  I continued swimming and cycling during this time.  I wasn’t worried about my fitness going into the race.  Finally, race day came (you don’t pass on the opportunity to race at world championships) and in the back of my mind I had no idea how my leg would react.  The swim and bike went great, 4 miles into the half marathon run, not so good.  The dreaded soreness reared its ugly head and my run was relegated to 9+ miles of walking/run-hobble.  Frustrating to say the least.

The off season would start and it was time to get healthy (injury free).  I continued treating myself and weeks later I was able to get back to running.  Even then I started to dive deeper into what am I doing mechanically while I’m running that is causing this to repeatedly happen?  With some research under my belt, I started to change my running form into something that would be not only more efficient, but mechanically sound.  I’m a physical therapist.  My life revolves around biomechanics it all made sense to me.  My athlete side just wanted to be able to run again and improve.  Since I made those changes in my running form, I have had few injuries and more importantly no more IT band problems.  To this day, I still do the things to help reduce my risk of developing IT band syndrome: strength exercises, stretching (even I’m guilty of not doing this regularly), foam rolling (same with this one), and being very aware of my running form.  This was only the beginning of training and racing smarter, not harder. 

Dr. Jamie So

Jamie So, PT, DPT, is the owner and physical therapist of Manual Therapy Effects.

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