Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Injuries Schminjuries: An IT Band Story

First of all - thank you all SO much for all of your encouraging words on my pity party post yesterday.  I promise I am already in higher spirits and am working on a "movin' on" plan.  I'm also working on that Girls On the Run post I promised you today... I PROMISE PROMISE it will be up tomorrow. 

But in the meantime, I've been working on this post for a long long time, but since I just finished talking about my 2010 Portland Marathon race AND I just read poor Robyn's struggles with the evil ITB (illotibial band, for those of you lucky enough not to know), I realized it was time to FINALLY finish it.

After Portland I was ridiculously sore, but not anything out of the ordinary for having just finished a marathon.  I must also preface this by saying that I did not have ANY ITB pain during the race itself, or during much of my training.  I did a short run on Thursday after Sunday's Marathon, and on Saturday, while I was just walking down a steep hill (one of the ones by Pike Place Market actually, that's how vividly I still remember this, I even know that I was wearing my fake-Ugg boots), I felt this crazy painful pop in the side of my knee.  After that it hurt to take every single step.

That crazy pain faded, however, and it left me with the common ITB problems I'm sure most of you have faced before - you know, that crazy stabbing pain that comes on only after you've run a bit.  For me it was about 1.5 miles.  I would feel great for the first 15 minutes, and then, like clock work, STAB STAB STAB IN THE SIDE OF THE KNEE.  It. Was. Horrible. 

I tried EVERYTHING.  And because I tried everything, and because this awfulness continued on and on for 3 freaking months, it's difficult to know exactly what worked for me.  But I'm going to tell you everything I did, in the hopes that it too, will help you.  Obviously I don't think I need to say that I'm no doctor and therefore interpret my results cautiously.  This is pretty much the order in which I did things. 

1.  Foam Rolling Like a Boss.  Seriously, foam-roll like its your job.  I did it twice a day. 

Spoiler alert: It will HURT.  If it hurts, that means you're in desperate need of it.  source

2.  Stretching Like a Boss.  Seriously, stretch at any and all opportunities.  You're in the shower?  Stretch that ITB.  Waiting for the elevator?  Stretch it out baby.  Brushing your teeth?  Stttreeeetttchhhhh. 

This is my #1 go-to ITB stretch.  There are others, but I like this one best.  source

3.  ART / Graston from the Chiropractor.  The Active Release Technique, or ART, is a soft-tissue massage technique not too different from what you do with the foam roller.  Basically the chiro presses into "pressure points" and then moves your leg around accordingly, trying to get the muscles to release and loosen up.  The Graston Technique, on the other hand, is similar to using The Stick on your muscles, except imagine The Stick is made of metal that is used to "scrape" your muscles and it hurts like no other.  Graston is seriously TORTURE.  It wasn't that horrible on my IT Band but I've had it done on my shin before and it pretty much reduced me to tears. 
They should call it the Torture Technique instead.  source

I do think that both of these things helped a bit but I think it would have helped so much more had I been resting and ibuprofen-ing at the same time (see #6 and #8).   The worst thing about this was the chiro was adamant that I could keep running through this as long as it didn't hurt.  So I kept running to that point of pain (15 minutes on the dot...) for WAY TOO LONG.  This was a huge mistake. 

4.  Physical Therapy.  I learned all about funny exercises to work your glutes and side glutes, like crab walks, clamshells, and the like.  I also went crazy on that machine at the gym where you open and close your legs (twss).
Clamshells: except to work harder put a resistance band around your thighs.  source 

Go to town on this machine.  Hint: make sure your shorts aren't too short!  source

5.  MRI.  After all of this, I was feeling hopeless and like it would never get better and the chiro agreed and thought maybe something was torn.  Nothing was torn.  He was just dumb for telling me to keep running through it.  This was a waste of money except for peace of mind. 

6.  Rest.  I finally decided I was going to rest for 2 full weeks.  I cross-trained on the elliptical and swam during (biking aggravated it as well so I stayed away from that).  I think if I had only done this sooner I would have been better way sooner.

 Cooper is a professional rester. 

7.  Doctor.  He was extremely unhelpful.  It took forever to get the appointment and I had already mandated rest for myself (FINALLY) by the time I went to see him.  He did tell me to do #8 though, which I do think helped.  I mostly just went to him to get my MRI read. 

8.  3 Advil 3 Times a Day for 10 Days.  I was seriously concerned about my kidneys and liver but the doctor said it was totally fine.  He acted like I was crazy for even being concerned.  Apparently I should eat Advil in the same fashion I eat candy.  This overlapped with #6 (resting) and I really do think that this combination helped. 

9.  New shoes.  Here is when I went minimalist and my husband got me a pair of Vibrams for Christmas.  I've since transitioned out of these because of shin problems and because they don't stop my heel strike.  But that's a story for a different post.  If your shoes are old, I'd get new ones.  If they're not, not sure this will help you. 

10.  Come back SLOWLY.  I came back very slowly, starting with 1 mile and adding half a mile at a time.  I could have come back more slowly (like I did 1 mile on Tuesday, 1.5 miles on Thursday, 2 miles on Saturday, etc.) but this worked for me.  I also incorporated stretch breaks every 5 minutes, lengthening these out to every mile, every 2 miles, etc.  I took longer at eliminating the stretch breaks.  I still remember how happy iI was the day I ran 6 miles again.  Make sure you're not running on a cambered road or running on a track because this can aggravate the ITB. 

So?  What's the verdict?  Obviously all injuries and bodies are different and there's no guarantees that what worked for me will work for you.  I read 100's of pages of forums about ITB problems on Runner's World and they all confused me.  But not one of them said what I really really REALLY wish someone had told me: that I needed to FULLY rest for 2 weeks.  I hope this helps you in some way!

Have you ever struggled with ITB issues?  Do you have any recommendations or ideas to add to this?