Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
Now you’re probably wondering, what is IT Band Syndrome? Well, come join my pity party and I’ll elaborate. Your IT band is a bunch of thick fibers that runs down the outside of your leg, from the hip to the top of the shin. It’s responsible for keeping your hip and knee stable. When hiking, my IT band becomes extremely tight which in turn causes the band to swell. The swelling produces a severe pain with each step. I can honestly say it feels like someone is digging a knife into the outside of my knee. It’s brutal!! Down hills are the worst and if I’m not using trekking poles, the pain occurs much faster.
After that trip, I knew something had to be done. I had experienced the IT band pain before but never that intense. There was no way I was hiking that AT or anywhere else for that matter, if I didn’t come up with a game plan. So, I bought some trekking poles (finally!!!) which help to reduce impact on the knees. I’ve also incorporated various stretches and strengthening exercises targeting my hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and quads since these specific muscles and body parts are somehow connected to the IT band. I do my best to stretch on a daily basis and, while hiking, will stretch before hitting the trail and during various times of the day. I’ve also added an 8 ounce muscle roller stick to my gear list to keep my legs as loose as possible. I train my legs, focusing on my glutes and hamstrings at least 2 to 3 times a week. Exercises like weighted lunges, deadlifts, squats, hip thrusts are key to building strength. I’m doing what I can to prevent a flare up and while I know it’s something I can’t necessarily control, at least I feel better knowing I’m putting the effort in.
Look, I’m a southern girl. I’m comfortable when the weather calls for 100% humidity and temps in the 90s. What I’m not comfortable with is anything less than 70 degrees. I know, I know…not only is the Appalachian Trail wet but it will be wet AND cold. Recently John and I did an overnight on Springer Mountain. The Approach Trail was beautiful! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky but dear God it was in the mid 30s all day and even lower than that in some spots. Ice and snow covered parts of the trail and even with my fleece, leggings, beanie and gloves I was still a little chilly. When we made it to camp that night on Springer, I was literally freezing. At the time, we both had 28 degree Mountain Hardware Phantom Spark sleeping bags. John had to cover me up with both of our bags just so I could stay warm. He also put a boiling hot water bottle in my bag which helped immensely.
So, after that trip, we decided to switch up a few things. We traded in our sleeping bags for Enlightened Equipment Revelation 0 degree quilts and also swapped out our Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisper down jackets for the Arc’teryx Cerium LT down jacket with a hood. We also purchased down booties. I’m not really sure how those will hold up. We went the cheap route and got them off of Amazon. A waste of $20 maybe? Our quilts haven’t arrived yet but let me tell you, the new jacket is amazing, and I would highly recommend it. I could tell right away that it was much warmer and loftier than the Ghost Whisper. I’ve also decided that I’m not going to limit myself on clothing items just to save a couple of ounces. I know how my body reacts to the cold and I’m going to bring the necessary items to keep me as warm as possible. If it turns out I don’t need certain items, who cares? I’ll just send them home. I guess you could say I am packing my fears….whatever.
I love to hear about how you aren’t giving up despite your setbacks! There are always solutions 🙂 I’m a bodyworker, so I’m glad to hear that you’ve found things that help the IT band. Foam roller and hip stretches sound great! Next time your in WA, get some topical CBD cream… it works wonders.