Overcoming ITBS

by Matt on December 18, 2010

Did you catch yesterday’s posts?

In my post on Thursday, I mentioned that I haven’t had any significant knee pain for quite some time. In case you haven’t been reading long, I developed a pretty bad case of in October. For a week or so, it was so bad that I was hobbling around like an old grandmother.

I pretty much had to stop running, cross train, and slowly build up my mileage over the past few weeks. During this time, I experimented with barefoot running (which I still do a few times a week and I absolutely love it). While I love barefoot running, my body just can’t run as many barefoot miles right now as I want to run in total. It’s going to take time to build up to where I want to be, but I will get there. In the mean time, I am going to keep building mileage in my normal running shoes.

I wouldn’t consider myself completely back to normal (I get the occasional twinge here and there), but for the most part, things are going in the right direction.

Over the past two days, I have received several emails from readers asking me what I did to overcome ITBS. I was hesitant to write this post for a few reasons:

  1. I am not a doctor.
  2. Even though people experience the same injuries, I believe that the causes can be different. For example, I think I suffered from ITBS because I have weak hips, but someone else could suffer from ITBS because of a leg length discrepancy.

Even though I don’t consider myself an expert on ITBS, I thought I would share what has helped ME. If you are suffering from knee pain, please go to a doctor. I didn’t but I am stubborn ;)


You can read my foam roller series here:

The foam roller I use is . To be honest, this was one of the smartest $40 I have ever spent in my entire life. I have used “regular” foam rollers in the past, but the grids and edges on this foam roller get really deep into the muscle. It hurts, but in a good way ;)

When my ITBS started, I rolled three times a day. It took about two weeks to start noticing an improvement, but it really did help. Now, I roll in the morning after running and at night before I go to sleep.

2. Stretching

I have stretched more in the past two months than I have in the 21 years that I have been alive. Basically, I never used to stretch. Maybe once a week if I was lucky ;)

Side lean stretch

Hip flexor stretch

These two stretches helped me immensely. I would do them before running, after running, somewhere during the middle of the night, and right before bed. Yeah, I loosened those muscles up ;)

3. Reduce your mileage and/or take time off from running.

I started out by only running a few times a week, but things still weren’t getting much better. Finally, in October/September, I took nearly 2 weeks off of running. I think the complete rest really helped!

If the pain is mild and you still want to run:

  • Avoid hills
  • Ice (10-15 minutes at a time)
  • Take ibuprofen afterward. Taking anti-inflammatories before exercise can mask the pain and cause you to make your injury worse. Advil is not a “cure all”.

4. Cross Train

To make up for not running (or reduced running), try to substitute high intensity elliptical training or high intensity cycling in it’s place.

5. Strengthen

Do not neglect this! For the most part, most injuries have a root cause. Just because your knee is hurting, that doesn’t mean that is where the actual problem is. It could be on the completely other side of your body!

I had an evaluation at the physical therapy office that my school provides to students for free. I didn’t actually undergo treatment there, but the phyical therapist determined that my hips were week, causing my knee is “dip in” when I was running. After just a week of doing the strengthening exercises that he showed me, I already started to notice an improvement.

One of my favorite exercises:

Stand sideways on the stair with one foot on the stair, the other foot hanging off the stair. Relax the hip of the leg that is hanging off the stair so that your foot falls below the stair. Then, tighten your hip and bring the foot back up so that it is level with the foot on the stair. Start with three sets of ten and increase a little bit each week.

For me, this really helps!

Another exercise that helped me was side leg lifts:

  1. Lie on your side, with your lower leg bent, upper leg straight and positioned a little to the back.
  2. Keep your ankles and arms relaxed.
  3. Lift your upper leg, contracting your buttock muscle at the same time.
  4. Lower the leg slowly and repeat the movement.

Remember that recovering from an injury is going to be a different for everyone. What helps me might not help you.

I hope this helps!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

December 18, 2010 at 8:17 AM

Very informative post. I was told to do basically the same thing when I saw a physical therapist for my IT band issues. Foam rollers are a godsend.
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MattNo Gravatar December 18, 2010 at 6:44 PM

How is your IT band doing?


Bama PapaNo Gravatar December 18, 2010 at 11:13 AM

Matt, good information to share.


MattNo Gravatar December 18, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Thanks dad!


December 18, 2010 at 1:36 PM

For some reason I was expecting a post on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


December 18, 2010 at 2:22 PM

My PT has been the bomb with regard to my back injury! I am not going to suffer through a musculoskeletal injury ever again without seeing one!
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December 18, 2010 at 3:33 PM

this is exactly what i’m doing right now. while i don’t think i have itbs i’ve noticed that my legs in general feel better after doing this stuff. do you still do all of these post-itbs? i’m thinking that these are good preventative tips too
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MattNo Gravatar December 18, 2010 at 6:44 PM

I don’t consider myself “post itbs” quite yet, but I still do them everyday.


December 19, 2010 at 7:15 AM

Great advice! I’ve been trying to do more of this just to prevent injury. Since I’ve only been running a year, it hasn’t really taken its toll on my body yet. I want to do whatever I can to stay injury-free.
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