IT band syndrome and the foam roller

I noticed that, after a running the long run, I would experience a numbing pain at my right hip.  The ache was so sharp that I would lose sleep over it.  I would toss and turn, twisting my hips, trying to find the position that would alleviate the pain.   The pain, oddly enough, disappeared when I switched to barefoot-minimalist running with Vibrams.

Then, I decided to run the Yamaha Run For Heroes with running shoes.  I figured that using running shoes would enable me to run at a faster pace for longer distance.  The pain manifested again, this time at my left hip.   The pain was so debilitating that I couldn’t life my knee.  Getting inside the car was a chore.

After googling the net, I came across a number of articles about the iliotibial band, or ITB, which is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg, beginning at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shin bone just below the knee joint. The band functions in coordination with several of the thigh muscles to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint and to assist the hip muscles in abduction (outward movement) of the thigh.  Apparently, runners are notoriously weak in their hip and core muscles, particularly if strength training or participation in sports that involve side-to-side movement are lacking.

So what to do?

There are a number of stretching and strengthening exercises that target the ITB.    Coinciding with the advice of a relative who is also a physical therapist, one of these exercises involves a foam roller.  I have never heard of a foam roller before.  Fortunately the nearby Chris Sports carries foam rollers.  I discovered that a foam roller is a dense 6-inch thick cylinder about 12-inches or 36-inches in length.  I got myself the shorter version and took it to the office gym to gave it a try.

IT band stretch using a foam roller

I am not the most flexible person in the world, so getting into the position felt awkward.   But as the cylinder rolled underneath my thigh, I felt like I was getting a deep massage.  The familiar sensation of muscles stretching and loosening hit when the foam roller was halfway between my hip and knee.  The first “roll” was painful, like thumbs jabbing into the tendons, but after a few more attempts, the pain subsided and all but disappeared!

My PT relative advised me to do this exercise for about 15 minutes a day to loosen up my IT band.   I’m eager to see how it will affect my race time.