After running a few ultra marathons, and not being able to do consistent training runs, I decided 2010 was the time to visit Jeremy Rodgers and figure out why I can't shake this syndrome. After several visits and a severely horrible year resulting (in my opinion) from an adverse reaction in both legs to cortisone shots into the bursa under the site of pain, I decided to undergo surgery to lengthen my iliotibial bands by Dave Grauer at Avista in Louisville, CO. I scoured the web for info on surgeries like this and found surprisingly little. I inquired running professionals such as coaches and massage therapists and posted on some forums and got the whole spectrum of advice. I'd tried everything from constant icing (frostbite scars to prove it), not running for months, consulting with massage therapists, physical therapists, and coaches, and completed long periods of directed strengthening, stretching, and foam rolling exercises. However I could not find any satisfactory personal experiences
The surgery involves making a ~1.5 inch incision just above the knee and making many small nicks into band as if you had a taut rope and continued to poke at it with a knife until it lengthened just a little bit. I had both knees done at the same time since they've both been problematic in the past.
Recovery wasn't too bad all things considered.
First 3-4 days: I couldn't really walk around but could get to the bathroom, etc. on my own without crutches. Although I was not allowed to shower or get the wound wet, or even remove the bandage for more than a week.
Next 2 weeks: Basically I had to teach myself how to walk again. It didn't just happen. I had to command my quad to pick up my foot, move it forward, place it down, shift the weight onto that foot and repeat. Foot placement was weird and painful. At the end of this period, I could walk 3-4 city blocks without too much problems. Although stairs presented a pretty big problem, and my knee caps were sore from the swelling.
Next month: Everything continued to heal well, but I was not allowed to run, hike, ski, etc. I think I rode my bike a few times just around town. I started physical therapy at Peak Form going about once a week. I had a pretty good vibe from PT although was a bit disappointed that only 1 of the therapists I'd seen over 5-6 visits was a runner, and got comments like "maybe you weren't made to run".
So after 6 weeks of recovery, my incisions were healed aside from a decent amount of scar tissue that I can't seem to work smooth (comment added a year later, small amount of scar tissue, but not an issue. If I squeeze it, it feels a little more solid than the rest of nearby flesh), and I was able to begin running again. I started with 0.5 mi jogs. In my 4th week of running, I ran 3x during the week (1-2 mi) with a longer hike (5 mi) on the weekend. If you read later posts, I chronicle the recovery with charts of weekly mileage.
My right leg with the scar visible at the bottom of the photo. The left leg scar is even more difficult to see.
It's now mid February, and I've run 80 miles cumulatively in 2011 over about 30 runs. This is the most consistent I've even been, mostly because I haven't ever tried running such short runs of 1 mi, for example. I've drastically reduced my running speed on purpose, and work very hard on my form. Most runs are at 11 min/mi pace.
So far, my legs don't feel perfect, but I also haven't had any real cases of IT band pain or anything similar. I have some random aches around the knee areas like still some pain below the patella, and a little pain around the incision site. All things considered, I feel like my knees are mostly fixed and I look forward to a great future of running.
(Another note added about a year later, I often have some small annoyances which go away if I take a week off. I have ghost IT band pain after a run, it feels somewhat like it did in the past, but the next day I can run again and it never hurts during runs. This has mostly taped off throughout the year, and I've been able to mostly quit the stretches, PT exercises etc and run comfortably.)