The iliotibial (IT) band lies along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. When you run, your knee flexes and extends, which causes the IT band to rub on the side of the femur. This can cause irritation if you take up your mileage too quickly, especially if you are doing a lot of track work or downhill running. ITBS makes up 12 percent of all running injuries.
Who is at risk? Runners who develop ITBS may overpronate, have a leg-length discrepancy, or suffer from weak hip abductor and gluteal muscles. If your hip motion is not well controlled, then your IT band gets stretched with your running stride, and that can irritate it.
Can you run through it? ITBS is known as a stubborn, nagging injury. Take a rest or two and back off your mileage for a week and you could avoid a full-blown flare-up. If you ignore the first symptoms and continue training at your usual mileage and intensity, you can exacerbate it.
Rehab it – Strengthen the hip abductors with lateral side steps, side leg lifts, and one-legged squats. Use a foam roller before and after you run: Rest the outside of your thigh on top of the roller, and roll your IT band from your knee to your hip. Hiking and cycling can aggravate ITBS. Instead, swim, pool-run, and use an elliptical trainer.
Prevent a relapse – Continue exercises and foam-rolling. Change directions every few laps while on a track, and limit how often you do hill routes. IT band issues often get better if you can learn to shorten your stride so that your weight centers on the midfoot as you land. A five to ten percent difference in stride length can make a huge difference.