Many athletes, especially runners, often struggle with IT band pain. The most common thing people do to try and correct this pain is stretch or foam roll it. Unfortunately, this is highly ineffective because the IT band cannot be stretched! So stop trying to stretch it and look at your biomechanics instead. The IT band pain is actually a symptom of a larger problem.
Anatomy can help this make sense. The IT band is a long band running from your pelvis to just below your knee and is made of fibrous tissue like a tendon or ligament. It is a stabilizer of the lower limb that can become problematic when too much stress is placed on it causing increased friction over the outside of the knee, therefore causing inflammation and pain. This is called IT Band Syndrome.
Why does this happen? This is a simple but complex answer. The simple answer is poor biomechanics and fatigue. The complex part is determining which part of the kinetic chain is failing and why. This can be a problem in the foot, a problem in the hip, or a combination of the two.
Often the problem in the foot is the medial arch collapsing for one reason or another. When the arch collapses, the knee moves medially and pulls the hip forward. This puts the excessive stress across the outside of the knee where the IT band crosses. This stress causes inflammation and it becomes painful. The cause of the arch collapse must be identified to resolve the IT band pain.
Another common problem is fatigue and/or failure of the glutes. Keeping it basic, one common issue is the glute medius fatigues and allows the pelvis to drop during the gait cycle as the leg is in the air. Again the knee to deviates medially causing the IT band stress and inflammation.
These are many more causes of IT Band Syndrome, but there are many complicating factors that influence both of the conditions talked about as well as the issues not discussed in this article. Because of the complicated nature of a running gait there is not one easy fix. Without getting a full examination of your gait and your biomechanics, it is difficult to determine what exercises need to be done to correct the problem. Doing incorrect exercises can cause things to get worse or another problem to arise.
If you are consistently having IT band problems with running the best thing to do is rest and correct your biomechanics then slowly reintroduce running. If you are unsure how to do this then seek the help of a trained professional such as a sports chiropractor to evaluate your mechanics and put a corrective program in place.