ITB – learning how to effectively recover from injury

30 Nov 16  / Pete

I’m back!!! Or at least I think I am. After 6 weeks of going slightly mad due to the injury of my ITB (Iliotibial Band), I am running steadily again and without pain or discomfort.

ITB Injury
Thank God that is over!

As I continue to get back to fitness, I thought that I would share both my experience of this injury and what I did right and wrong along the way. Hopefully, my previous stupidity will help somebody else to recover quicker or avoid the injury completely.

I caused this injury. I’ve only myself to blame. What a tit.

My recent frustrations came from a mixture of my own stupidity, and outright stubbornness to accept when my body is defeated. As mentioned in my previous post from the Amsterdam marathon, I was part way through my second marathon in 8 days and my knee was screaming at me to stop running. Did common sense prevail? No, of course it didn’t. I have the mind of an idiot runner.

ITB injury
Yes…yes I am.

An idiot runner’s mindset

This is a level of stupidity that only a runner can appreciate. It’s when the sensible thinking part of the brain has a debate with the stubborn determined fool within. The sensible, and often wise section of the mind is saying that enough is enough. Like a light on a car dashboard, it’s being kind enough to let you know that something is wrong and you need to pull over.
Unfortunately, this is counteracted by the determined if not, slightly naive section of the mind…

“Don’t give up now. You set your sights on completing this task when you started and you should crack on towards the finishing line.”

Of course, if you have the runners brain, like I do, you will battle through the pain and reach your destination no matter what the cost. The only problem is that it takes its toll.

When I dragged my sorry legs through the second half of the Amsterdam marathon in absolute agony, I knew damn well that it would leave me injured. I quickly weighed up in my mind what was more important to me, avoiding further injury or completing my crazy goal of running 2 marathons in 8 days. Like the absolute tool that I am, I chose the latter and completed my task.

I will never again fail to listen to my body, it clearly knows far more than I do.

This is what you will look like when you don’t listen to your body. You might not be wearing a banana suit at the time hahaha.

Amsterdam Marathon
That right there, is a broken banana haha

Why you should always listen to your body

Well, to put it simply, if you don’t, you will be sat on the sidelines for a while going bonkers because you can’t run, and in my case, the uncertainty of a time scale for my come back was getting me down. I am a damn positive thinker, but even I have some sh*tty days when I can’t get out and run. It affects more than my physical activity levels, it impacts my mood and my whole life.

“Give me my endorphins now!!!!!!”

Signs that you have a similar injury (ITB syndrome)

For me, it was a steady ache slightly lower than my knee and on the outer side of my leg. Once I pushed on to try and get through it, this turned into a very sharp pain that felt like I had a knife in my leg.

What to do if you ever feel this pain

STOP!!! Without a moment’s hesitation. Don’t try and carry on like I did. Accept that you are injured and picture how miserable you will be if you cause further injury and have to stop running for a considerable amount of time. Trust me, it’s not worth continuing. I went through this so hopefully fewer people have to. Learn from my stupid mistakes! I most certainly have.

Get yourself to a physio

Always get a professionals opinion. I didn’t do this straight away, but did so after resting my legs for 2 weeks. I thought that I was OK to run and got myself down to my local Parkrun, only to be forced to bow out after 3km due to my knee pain returning. I’d tried to run fast, like a fool. I didn’t build up to this with steady jogging like a sane person would. I realise now what an absolute idiot I was at the time, and this led me to the get a professionals opinion. I went to visit John, the Glossop physio.

My diagnosis – aggravated ITB

John gave me some simple stretches to help me as I rested further from running. At least I now had the opinion of a professional who helped put my mind at ease, despite the fact that it meant some more rest. I was no longer just assuming what my injury was, but I had solid reasoning for how I was attempting to recover.

How to get back to fitness from this injury

The initial rest is vital but I found that rest alone was not enough. After another 2 weeks, my leg felt decent, but there was still a mild irritation in my ITB. It felt as if it wasn’t getting much better as time passed, so I decided that it was time to start slow jogging.

Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race

Now, when I say slow, I mean slow. If I’d have gone any slower then I would have been walking. When I tried to return at Parkrun earlier that month, I had gone way too fast, way too soon. The only way that I was getting back into this running game was to build up the strength in my knee but without irritating it along the way. The key was short distances, slow pace and concentrating on good solid form.

Over the course of a week, I went from 1.5 miles to 5 miles, with a few step ups in between. Every one was a jog and not a run. Something that I can find very tedious but it was vital to my recovery.

Am I fully fit again?

The short and simple answer is NO. I am very much still on the comeback trail. I am now running at a slow pace, but at least it’s more than a jog. I am running 10km each time I hit the streets and my leg is improving daily.

What have I learned?

Never ignore my body again. It never lies. I’m not saying that I won’t take on any more ridiculous challenges, that’s just in my nature, but when I need to stop, I will.

Make a mistake once and it’s a learning curve, but continue to make the same mistake and you are a fool. I have learned from my mistakes, hopefully you can too!

Thanks for listening to my usual ramblings, folks. You’re absolute legends and I love you to bits. Have a good one!

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  • BLUR

    Hi I am also suffering now from the exact same problem, and have tried to run but the pain in my knee returns – what physio exercises / stretches were you prescribed? I would very much appreciate any help you can pass on. Ta,.

    • That is not a problem at all.
      There were 3 exercises that he had me do:

      Hip Flexor Stretch – 2 x 10 seconds:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQmpO9VT2X4

      Single Leg Bridge – 3×10 reps:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-6Gonx2Wpo

      Single Leg Raise – 1 x 25 reps for each leg
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izV5th7AQHM

      I had also been doing strength training at the gym but once I had visited the physio I took 1 full week of doing absolutely no exercise just because I had tried with strength training and I didn’t seem to be recovering.
      It is important to note that I am still not 100% but I am strong enough in that area to run. I began by jogging seriously slowly and did not increase that pace at all for over a week. I can run faster now but I am still taking my pace slowly and will continue to do so for the rest of this month. I won’t even think about sprinting until the New Year.
      The ITB is such a niggly area, and it seems that once it is damaged, it needs to be treated delicately for quite some time (in my experience anyway). Even if you start to feel fine running, don’t push it too hard for a while because there could still be some damage repairing.
      Good luck getting it right soon. I would love to hear how you get on with it.