IT band stands for Iliotibial band. Aka, the super annoying thing that’s been causing me a lot of pain lately, and preventing me from squatting or doing any kind of leg lift. Yeah. It’s that bad. I went to the gym on Tuesday to try to finally get a lift in, and not only was I nearly crying in pain after about 5 minutes, I had to sit down for the rest of my time there and walking afterward was pretty painful. If this has happened to you before, then you know how much it sucks.
The IT band is a thick piece of connective tissue that runs all the way from your hips to your knees on the outside part of your thighs. It’s pretty much a continuation of one of the major outer-thigh muscles, aka the tensor fascia latae (fun fact: I was able to remember that muscle in my first anatomy class by reminding myself that if I drink enough lattes, they’ll go to my hips. Get it?). This connective tissue functions as a stabilizer, and in conjunction with the tensor fascia latae, quadriceps femoris, and gluteus maximus (read: your other major leg muscles) acts a) as a hip flexor, b) to extend the knee, and c) rotate the leg. Basically, all of these muscles work together when you do any kind of standing exercise and are especially important for running, walking, etc.
Why does mine hurt so bad? I have no idea. I wish I knew. Pain in the IT band is nicknamed ITBS, or IT band syndrome. It’s most commonly associated with runners, but can be caused by a ton of different things, including (but not limited to): yoga, poor warm-up or cool-down exercises, biking, hiking, rowing, swimming, lifting, and overuse. It can also be because of simple anatomy, whether it’s due to foot position during training, or weak accessory muscles (hip abductors, glute med, etc). Well. That’s pretty much everything under the sun.
What I know isn’t causing it:
- Running: I stopped running about 6 months ago. I used to run 2-3 miles every morning, but then I started working 2 jobs, and all that energy disappeared.
- Yoga: ITBS from yoga happens mostly due to excessively sitting cross-legged or in lotus position. I’m not super obsessed with either, and my IT band was bothering me before I started yoga.
- Swimming, biking, hiking, rowing: no. I don’t do any of these. Well, hardly ever… not enough to injure myself.
- Weak muscles: I don’t have a vagus collapse when I squat. or deadlift. Nor any kind of hip shift, or weird foot position. My form is pretty perfect (if I do say so myself). I never attempt to do too much weight, because I’m a firm believer that form comes first. Furthermore, I’ve done multiple tests to determine whether or not I have weak abductor or glute med muscles.
- Poor warm-ups/cool-downs: I always warm up and cool down. This isn’t it either.
What I know isn’t helping:
- Foam rolling. This just makes it feel worse.
- Taking time off. I’ve tried a month. Worked my squat back up to 135. Hurt again. Took 3 more weeks off. Nope. It’s not doing anything.
- Working out lightly. NOPE.
- Running. Squatting. Anything intense on my lower-body. Ouch.
- Not seeing a physician.
I don’t think I’d make a good detective…
The only possible thing I can think of is over-use. I used to do extremely heavy leg days (volume-intense) twice to three times a week. Maybe I hurt it one day and I didn’t even realize it. Who knows. All I know is I’m really sick of this issue hindering my progress! I’m going to see a doctor next week– I’ll keep you updated.
***Update as of 2/13/17: Turns out, I was right! My injury is due to over-use. But, here’s what I didn’t expect: both of my hamstrings are strained as well. I didn’t realize the limited mobility I experience in my legs in comparison to the rest of my body, especially my right leg. And looking at it now, this limited mobility certainly IS abnormal as someone who practices yoga, martial arts, and weightlifting. I am typically very flexible, but my injuries have truly affected full function and movement of my legs.
Also, it hurts quite a bit more now! To diagnose me, the doctor poked and prodded and ground my joints together to figure out where I was experiencing pain. Some of that was extremely irritating, and now I constantly feel a dull pain, especially in my right leg.
I’ll be going to physical therapy 2x a week for 6 weeks, icing my leg, and getting dry needling (a form of acupuncture) to loosen and rehabilitate the tissue. No leg-intesive exercise for me for the foreseeable future.