Posted in Health and fitness

Sore Knees? Maybe you have ITB and don’t know it.

A few years ago I thought I’d torn my hamstring. I couldn’t sit on my bum because it hurt and I had to limit my training, especially running. It took about six months to heal, or so I thought. (No I didn’t get a doctors opinion).

Then I joined a team in the Kokoda Challenge in the Gold Coast Hinterland. I was possibly the fittest in our group at the start. We all trained as much as we could in the lead up, but I don’t think we practiced enough downhill. I guess if we had of my injury would have blown up sooner and I may not even have entered. Anyhow to cut a long story short. I only used one hiking stick. I recommend always use two. One unbalances your body. I got to the halfway mark (48km) after slowly walking through pain for about an hour. Under the outside of my left knee throbbed with pain and I was feeling lightheaded.  I knew my own body and that I couldn’t continue.

I was picked up by a friend because my husband was away for a rep football carnival with my son, Blake (something I still regret missing). I didn’t go to a doctor because when I’m feeling faint the last thing I want is someone prodding the injury. I know some of you will shake your heads but those who are regular fainters will understand.

For years I believed the injury was in my knee. If I run for more than three kilometres it will flare up and I’ll be in pain again. I’ve learnt to live with it but I’m lucky I now know what it is, Iliotibial Band (ITB) Friction Syndrome. I finally found this out through personal trainer, Sharon Kelly-Knowles. No other trainer had picked up my injury.

ITB and me

I was explaining to Sharon that I could no longer run because of the pain, during a boot camp session. She came up and asked where the pain was. I showed her under my knee. She then said but do you feel it here and pushed her fingers into my thigh near the hip. ‘Ouch’.

Yes, the pain was there. She explained that I had ITB and that the band running from my hip to my knee was the problem, not my knee, so to speak. I have now found a dint in the muscle there and realise that the ITB was probably torn during my first injury (that I thought was a hamstring) and consequently strained further during my 48 km trek. For those of you who never knew that you had this injury here are my symptoms:

  • Pain under outside of the knee
  • Can run easily up to three or four kilometres (this varies)
  • Uneven ground can trigger the pain
  • Going downhill hurts more than uphill
  • May have a dint in the thigh/hip where original injury occurred
  • Press in that area and it will hurt

Now I maintain the injury. It won’t go away all together but if the pain comes (at a certain level) I know to stop running and change exercise. Squats and lunges are okay for me but some with ITB can’t even do these, therefore doing upper body work while you ITB pain reduces, is another alternative.

Though I have this injury I’m very proud that I pushed myself to finish The Mother’s Day Classic this year. This event is 8 km, so I double my usual distance but I did plenty of massage in the days leading up to it and placed a heat pack on the knee area to reduce the pain and get across the line. Because of this strategy I only had a little pain the next day and resumed training four days later. Yes you can manage it now you know what it is.

Mother's Day Classic (in aid of Breast Cancer research) 2014 with Fusion Outdoor Fitness girls.
Mother’s Day Classic (in aid of Breast Cancer research) 2014 with Fusion Outdoor Fitness girls.

When I run with Mahli (my dog) I think she has a sixth sense about my ITB. When I start to pull up with it because my knee is sore she has already slowed down before I do. For I dog who only knows flat strap like an Energiser bunny this a an oddity. Dogs really are clever and I think they are more tuned in to us than we know. Later she’ll lick under my knee where the pain is, as if she knows it’s there. Amazing!

Here’s a story from a physio on how to manage the condition Happy Running.


Donna Munro is the author of The Zanzibar Moon, Kendwa's Secret and Elephant Creek, freelance writer, blogger, graphic designer, content writer, book marketer, administrator, web editor and book reader. She's been published in Take Five, The Australian Woman's Weekly, For Me, She, That's Life, Woman's Day and Club Life and other smaller publications. She is a proud member of Romance Writers of Australia and the current Administrative Assistant. Donna lives in Queensland and is addicted to beaches, reading, Peanut Butter, elephants, koalas, Sydney Roosters and Home & Away. You'll often find her digging her toes in the sand with a book in her hand.

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