Down again: Struggling with ITBS for the Second Time

Gah! Seems I’m spending half of every year recovering from injuries (that are / are not running related), couple of months “easing back” and maybe like 1-2 months of actual running *grumbles*

Google “common running injuries” will bring you face-to-face with ailments such as plantar fasciitis (which I have once suffered from *fingers crossed that it never returns*), Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, Runner’s Knee and of cos, the iliotibial band syndrome, “ITBS” for short.  Pfftttt… I can’t even spell ‘iliotibial’ without checking it up… plus it’s a major bitch describing it to non-runners… but here I am, down with ITBS. Again.

itb-syndromePicture Credit: Medicine Net

I was first acquainted with ITBS in September last year, though I didn’t know it then, after my 1st Half Marathon finish. The pain at the outside of the left knee struck me when I tried to stand after resting at the grandstands post run. It made walking difficult, but thankfully it went away the next day so I didn’t pay much heed to it. I thought it was just my knee acting up cos I was unused to that sorta distance.

It then returned the weeks after, during and after runs of shorter distances, and every time it did, it took longer for the pain to go away. It was f**king annoying.

I spoke to fellow runners, googled, and eventually ended up at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s (“TTSH”) sports clinic – there, after ‘encouragement’ on my part, the doc finally diagnosed it as ITBS, prescribed painkillers, physiotherapy and sent me for a video gait analysis. I was supposed to go on a re-gait program but broke my toe before I could start on it. Hated the doc at TTSH (another story for another time) though, so I daresay that I wasn’t really upset about missing the appointments.

When I eventually recovered from the fracture, my IT band didn’t bother me for awhile… even managed to complete the Laguna Phuket Marathon (Half) with a PB (will ‘brag’ about this another time) and no pain aside from the usual soreness. I thought that the extended forced rest allowed not only my toe to heal, but my IT band too.

Perhaps it DID heal, I don’t know… for slightly less than a month later, I went ahead to do something really stupid – run the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (“GCAM”) unprepared. Yep, that’s right. Despite hearing Illdian’s voice in my head yelling ‘YOU ARE NOT PREPARED’, and knowing that I’m gonna hurt (what I had in mind was major muscle soreness though), I went ahead with the full 42.195km without training sufficiently for it.

*sigh* I actually had a 4mth training plan… but whatever OTL

As I fully intend to post about my first FM experience another time, am not gonna go into details here suffice to say that the dreaded familiar pain returned sometime past 21km. That time, it wasn’t only afflicting my left. The outside of both my knees hurt. It got so bad that I hobbled the last 15km or so of the race, and needed assistance to stand for the next 2 days.

This time, the pain seems to be here to stay. I skipped the Pocari Sweat Run (10K) the week after GCAM, but had to take part in the Mizuno Ekiden (10.5K) the week after – it was a 4 person relay, couldn’t let my teammates down. As expected, the pain returned. A week after the Ekiden was the Tri-Factor Run on Sunday. 24K. No prizes for guessing the toll it took on my legs, all cos I wanted that medal – was part 3 in a set of 4. My legs recovered sufficiently to walk ‘normally’ only yesterday, 4 days after the run.

Enough is enough.

Am not gonna push it anymore – wouldn’t wanna damage my legs so bad that I can never run again. I gave away my bib for the upcoming 2XU Compression Run (HM), and it’s highly likely that I won’t be running anymore until the Tri-Factor Triathlon on 23 August. The run segment is 5K. Keeping fingers crossed that my ITB would have healed enough by then to handle the distance. I do fully intend to ease back into running again post-tri though… and hopefully be ready for my next long run is the Standard Chartered KL Marathon (Half) on 4 October.

That doesn’t mean I’m just gonna sit back and do nothing though! I’m not a doctor, and neither do I have any medical knowledge… but while full rest may seem ideal on the surface, am pretty sure that doing so will just cause my ITBS to return again after Stand Chart KL.

According to multiple online sources (yes, I do know better than to believe everything I read on the Internet), common causes of ITBS include overuse, tight muscles, weak hip muscles, poor running form… etc. Mine is likely to be a combination of them all… perhaps specifically my glutes as I feel them tighten when I run. Hence what I plan to do in the meantime, is work on strengthening and stretching the muscles involved.

There are loads of suggestions as to what exercises that can be done to assist – side leg lifts, hip thrusts, clam shells… etc. etc. a video that I found useful is linked below:-

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll prioritize strength & stretch over cardio… which means more Yoga/Pilates classes as vs BodyCombat or spin. I’ll head to the pool for easy swimming and take Elsa out for casual cycling instead. Plus I will do the recommended rehab exercises every other night. The most difficult part of this imho, is controlling the urge to just dash out for a run before I am ready.

Ugh. I wonder if anyone else struggles with as much injuries as I do. I must be doing something wrong (-_-)”

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