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I need to run with IT band syndrome - but how?

Question: I need to run with IT band syndrome - but how?

I am training for an ultra but after 3 marathons and years of knee abuse I have been diagnosed with IT band syndrome in my right knee and from the feel of it in my left knee as well. It came out of nowhere and feels like someone is stabbing my knees with a screw driver after just a few miles. What happened? How can I keep running?


I don't claim to be an expert, and I don't have as much running experience as you, but I can offer my advice because I also have suffered that stabbing pain from my IT band when running. Unfortunately, I don't have that quick fix you might be looking for because I don't think there is one. In fact it will probably take at least 4-6 months to get back to your former abilities. I am now able to run again without that pain, but it was a long process and I now have to be conscious of my mileage, and less spontaneous about going long distances after taking some time off.

The event that brought my pain on was this: I was training for a marathon and had been stepping up my mileage very quickly. One day I stepped it up from 8 miles to 12 miles, which was the farthest I had ever run. My knees were fine, and two days later I went for a 6 mile run. During this run I began having stabbing pains in my knees, and was then unable to run farther than 1.5 miles again without it coming back. I mention this because maybe you can find parallels with when your pain first started.

Apparently the underlying cause of IT band syndrome is that your hip flexors are not strong enough, according to the Cleveland Clinic physical therapist I went to. This causes your knees to move laterally, in which the IT band rubs too much against your knee and becomes inflamed. There are other causes like different sized legs, but I suspect if this was your case it would have happened sooner. Another cause may be if you're running on a banked surface. Anyways, to fix a hip flexor problem, I found that the best treatment is yoga because so many of the exercises focus on strengthening and stretching your hip flexors. Another way is by using elastic bands with some exercises designed to strengthen the hip flexors. Also, make sure that your shoes are right.

So as for running again, take some time off. The first thing I did was take a month off from running to let my knee heal. When I finally felt able to start again, I gradually worked up my mileage, starting off at a measly 1 to 1.5 miles for a few weeks. Then I started gradually upping the mileage by a 1/2 mile or 1 mile at a time per week or two. It sucks going so slow, but if you do it too fast and hurt your knee again you have to start all over, which takes forever. No matter how good you feel while you are out there, watch your mileage because you need to build up the hip muscles so that they can handle it.

This is what I did and I can now run long distances again without that pain. I don't know exactly what it was that did it, but I imagine that the strength training and stretching I did for my hip flexors, combined with the slow mileage upping ensured that my hip flexors could keep my knees from moving laterally when I ran.

I hope I helped because I remember how awful that pain is. It is some of the worst I've ever felt. It is a pretty major injury that you will always have to be careful of, especially now that it has happened once to you already. Just focus on your long term goal of being able to run long distance again, and you will be fine.