Avoiding and Treating IT Band Syndrome as a Trail Runner
Each sport puts athletes at unique risks of injury. Tennis players are more prone to medial epicondylitis, whereas swimmers are increasingly vulnerable to bicep tendonitis. For trail runners, however, one of the most prominent injuries they face is IT band syndrome.
Trail Runners and IT Band Syndrome
Running is a high-impact activity. Therefore, runners are at risk of IT band injuries even when making strides on a level surface. The added strain of running on various terrain, at inclines, and around potential obstacles poses a unique problem for trail runners specifically.
The IT — iliotibial — band is the bundle of connective tissue within the outer thigh. IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that develops as the IT band tightens over time when runners continuously strike the ground and run on slopes. This injury can cause severe pain in areas along the hip, thigh, and knee. Patients with IT band syndrome also report swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the affected area.
How to Prevent Injury on the Trail
Trail running always presents some level of risk to runners, but there are many ways to protect the IT band while maintaining an active running routine. The following practices will help to alleviate stress on the IT band and reduce the onset of IT band injury.
- Stretch and recover accordingly. Pre- and post-run care are equally as important to trail runners. Stretching will ready the muscles for activity, while recovery tactics — such as foam rolling or ice bathing — promote muscle restoration.
- Create a running split. To reduce stress on the IT band without taking too much time off, trail runners can design a running split that features a combination of trails and flat terrain.
- Gradually ease into new terrain. Beginner trail runners should pay close attention to the course they choose. To best prevent IT injury, runners must slowly increase distance and duration over time while starting with moderate, level courses.
Treating and Recovering From IT Injuries
At the first sign of IT injury symptoms, trail runners must prioritize rest. However, if symptoms do not subside after taking time away from the trail, runners should consult an orthopaedic professional. From there, they may be recommended additional conservative treatments, including over-the-counter pain relievers and physical therapy.
For patients with prolonged IT band issues, sports medicine specialists may recommend surgical alternatives, including minimally invasive arthroscopy. Ultimately, the correct course of treatment depends on the level of injury, but most athletes can expect a smooth and complete recovery with adequate rest and an intuitively timed return to trail running.
Top IT Band Treatment in St. Augustine
Do you think you have an IT band injury? Are you concerned that your current trail running habits might cause one? No matter your medical concern, the sports medicine specialists at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine have the technology, equipment, and facilities to help. To schedule an appointment, fill out our online request form or call 904-825-0540.
Casey McClone, MD
Board Certifications in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. Dr. McClone specializes in treating musculoskeletal pain for patients of all ages with ultra-sound guided injections.
Sina Kasraeian, MD
Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and has extensive training in arthroscopy and sports medicine reconstructive procedures.