The Untold Story of my IT Band Syndrome Treatment

by Jason Fitzgerald

There’s something I haven’t told you: treating my IT band syndrome didn’t just revolve around the ITB Rehab Routine.

IT Band Syndrome Treatment

Effective IT band syndrome treatment is much more involved than doing a 10 minute strength routine a few times a week. Sure, this routine was instrumental in getting me healthy. And it’s helped literally thousands of other runners, too.

But it was just a piece of my overall ITBS treatment.

I created the routine after seeing four physical therapists and exhaustively researching IT band syndrome. Hundreds of people have told me it’s almost an exact replica of what their physical therapist prescribed – and they could have saved hundreds or thousands of dollars if they found it first!

These notes make me happy; I love coaching so you can avoid my mistakes and learn what really works. Messages like these make my day:

Injury Testimonial_Twitter

ITB RR_Facebook

Twitter_Race Plan Injuries

But the routine I developed is just that: one routine. It’s not a program or a specific treatment protocol. The ITB RR was also tailored to me back in 2009 – the particular exercises I needed, including how many repetitions for each one.

I shared the routine so runners could use it as part of a treatment program (or simply as prevention).  And two years later that video has been viewed over 115,000 times, shared thousands of times, and has nearly 200 comments. It’s my second most popular post ever.

But the comments show most runners don’t know how to get healthy. Here are a few:

Do you recommend a foam roller to stretch the IT Band? (you can’t stretch the IT Band – yes, use a foam roller but not on the IT Band itself)

Does the specific thickness of the foam roller matter? What about cryotherapy? (no and no)

I fought ITBS for a while, ended up changing shoes and was put in custom orthotics. Then I was told to get a stability shoe to further correct my over-pronation. Is this going to help? (unlikely)

Most runners don’t treat injuries systematically. Instead, they use the Try Everything, Try Nothing approach and throw a bunch of treatments against the wall to see what sticks.

Inevitably, they say things like “I’m 4 months into my recovery with daily stretching, foam rolling, and rest with no progress.”

I’m not surprised.

IT Band Syndrome Treatment Is About the *Mentality* to Recover

Before recovering from any injury, ask yourself if you’re ready to recover.

When I was injured for six months in 2008, I went through an intense period of denial. If you’ve been injured, you’ll recognize my thought process:

There’s no way this injury is that serious.

I’ll just rest and see how it feels in a week.

If I just do what I’ve always done, this will go away on its own.

I’m losing so much fitness – I’m going to have to start from scratch!

Mentally, I was in a horrible place. I knew deep down that my IT band was severely hurt, but I thought “waiting it out” was the best ITB treatment.

In fact, I planned a 5k race over Thanksgiving just two weeks after my injury. It never happened. Soon a week turned into a month. A month turned into three months.

Feelings aren’t something I openly write about here but I was depressed. It was the middle of winter – cold, dark, and I couldn’t even go for a run to lift my spirits. Instead, I sat on the couch and watched reruns of House while eating an absurd amount of ice cream. I should have bought stock in Ben & Jerry’s.

I wanted to be healthy and pain free more than anything. I’m sure you felt the same way during a previous injury.

Three months of lethargic self-loathing later, something snapped and I desperately searched for an effective IT band syndrome treatment. The motivation to get healthy is what finally pushed me to do something about my injury. I wasn’t content to sit on the couch any longer and wait for some mythical day to arrive where my knee wouldn’t hurt.

My injury needed a more proactive approach (most do). I started researching physical therapists in the area and made appointments. After seeing four of them, I found one who understood running and ITBS, but more importantly understood that I was a runner and needed to get back to running as soon as possible.

His goal was straight-forward: get me back to doing what I love. I had three weekly appointments (or put another way, about $100 worth of physical therapy every week).

Once I fully committed to recovery, my injury improved dramatically. It no longer hurt to walk and most days I felt 100%. I went from being depressed and in denial to optimistic and encouraged. I knew that I was going to get healthy.

I believed in my IT band syndrome treatment. Not only that, but I was fixing lifestyle mistakes that contributed to my injury. Running was in my future!

I’m telling you this because sometimes we focus too much on the specific exercises and don’t take a step back to look at the whole picture. Having the right mentality is crucial to overcoming ITBS (or any injury). As corny as “stay positive” sounds, it’s absolutely true.

As exercise science journalist Alex Hutchinson (and expert interviewee in Injury Prevention for Runners) wrote on Sweat Science:

“When athletes begin to doubt themselves… it can spin into a self-fulfilling spiral of failure.”

If you believe you’re destined to stay injured, you very likely might stay injured. But by getting rid of those negative beliefs, like I did, you can help yourself finally get healthy.

I recently interviewed Ariana Hilborn (a pro runner in Phoenix who didn’t even start running until 2007!) for the Injury Prevention for Runners program. Last fall she experienced her first significant injury. But her mentality was critical to her recovery.

She said things like,

I am not throwing in the towel. This will pass and make me stronger and even more motivated to accomplish all of my running goals. Just a little hiccup.

I love when runners stay positive, believe in themselves, and recognize that injuries have the potential to actually improve your running if you handle them the right way. Of course we want to stay healthy. But if you do get injured, use it as a learning experience.

Getting (and staying) Healthy is a Process

Injuries are best treated systematically with a program that treats both symptoms and causes of your injury. If you don’t know WHY you’re injured, you won’t be able to treat it effectively.

Once I learned that ITBS won’t be cured by rest, ice, or stretching I got to work on IT band syndrome treatments that actually work. I focused on strength exercises, form improvements, and lifestyle changes that improve the healing process.

These are the same strategies I now use with runners who buy custom rehabilitation programs for ITBS and those who were in the 1-on-1 Injury Prevention Coaching program. And you’ll get the step-by-step process for healing injuries like runner’s knee, ITBS, Achilles tendinopathy, and plantar fasciitis.

This information is available to you in Injury Prevention for Runners – the most comprehensive prevention product currently available.Injury Prevention for Runners books

Unlike the random tips and questionable advice you’ve seen on the web, this program uses the best prevention and treatment protocols available.

I’ve spent nearly two years and thousands of dollars researching injury prevention so you don’t have to – you can just get back to doing what you love (running!).

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited to share this with you. Those on my Injury Prevention email list have gotten extra information (you can sign up here to get that bonus content) like several presentations on how to stay healthy.

Stay healthy and run strong!

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Stephanie

Hey Jason, this is pretty exciting! Will this product include prevention/rehab techniques for other injuries besides the ones listed (runner’s knee, ITBS, Achilles tendinopathy, and plantar fasciitis)? Due to my personal history with injury, I’m specifically interested in peroneal tendonitis, calf strains, and hip flexor strains, but I’m also just curious to learn more in general!

Jason Fitzgerald

Thanks Stephanie! It’s going to include more prevention strategies than you can shake a stick at :) In terms of specific injuries, I’m only covering those four because they’re the most common running injuries. Things like strains are more general and the general recovery/prevention strategies will work. More info to come next week!

Angel Williams

Thank you for helping me get through my IT band issues/injury. I started having flares in August but thought I would be okay if I just took it easy. Didn’t work :( Anyhow, after finding your routine, I started using those exercises and also started working on form changes. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, if all I do is rest it, I’m just going to get back out there and hurt it again. I wasn’t running on crowned surfaces and while I probably did try too much too soon, in my heart, I didn’t think that was it either. I was doing your routine while sticking to low-no impact “running” machines and I am happy to say that I can again run pain free. I had wanted to run a marathon this weekend, but realized that is probably unrealistic, so I am going for the half instead.

This comment is long and drawn out, but with a form change (back to forefoot strike like I ran in college) and stronger hips, I feel better and am becoming a stronger runner! I still take walk breaks so my legs don’t get too tired and I don’t fall back into my old patterns, but to go from crawling in pain after a couple of miles to being able to put 5-6 miles on the ground 4-5 days a week in six months is AMAZING. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

Jason Fitzgerald

You’re welcome :)

Andrew Tucker

Love your program Jason! I have been using your strength routines ever since I bought a marathon training plan from you in December and my Achilles and PF issues are significantly decreased and I expect them be gone completely over the next month or so. This weekend is my first long run and I cant wait to see how my newly rehabbed feet respond to the miles!

My biggest concern 2 months ago was getting through a marathon without injury…I don’t worry about that anymore. Now I focus on finishing strong and enjoying the journey.

Jason Fitzgerald

Awesome. Thanks for letting me know Andrew – hope it continues to go well!

Tania

This article just reminds me of how ‘low’ I was too prior to beginning your training and rehabilitation program. My IT band injury was so bad that I couldn’t get in and out of the car without it hurting but yet I refused to stop running even though I was almost limping!! In my mind I knew I was in a bad way but I was refusing to accept reality. The worst thing was that non-runners just didn’t understand. They just laughed and said that there was one easy solution… stop running!! That wasn’t an option for me. After following your program for 17 weeks, I can now run long distances pain free again and I have some pretty big plans!! Thanks so much!! It was reading others’ success stories that made me believe it could work and decide to give it a go!!

Chelsea

Hi, Jason. I was just wondering if you have any experience with or opinion about ART (Active Release Technique)? I had a bought of ITBS last winter and had some ART sessions. I’m not sure if that’s what helped me or whether it was the ITBS routine & foam rolling. I’m aiming at prevention as much as possible this winter, although occasionally I feel a little twinge in that area. I think the cold brings it out for me. I would love to hear your opinion about ART, since if my ITBS returns this winter I might consider it again.

Jason Fitzgerald

If the practitioner is any good it could be helpful to relieve any existing trigger points/particular tight areas in the glutes/quads/hamstrings/hips that could be contributing to poor movement patterns. But I don’t necessarily think it’s necessary – you could do self-massage yourself.

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