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by Geoff Rand

If you’ve ever felt a stiffness or pain in your hip, outer thigh, or outside of the knee, you’ve likely had a tight IT band.  This often-neglected length of tissue is responsible for stabilizing the knee, and without proper maintenance, the band can stiffen and limit proper range of motion in all manner of movements including squats, deadlifts, box jumps, and even your ability to run.  Let’s take a look at what the IT band is and how you can keep it functioning properly.

The iliotibial (IT) band is a fibrous tissue or fascia that helps to stabilize the knee.  It runs from the outside of the pelvis to the lower knee, and inserts at the top of the shinbone.  While it is referred to as a “band”, don’t think of it as elastic.  It actually isn’t very malleable; it is more like a leather belt.

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The IT band is filled with nerves.  This explains why it is so sensitive to treatments like foam or lacrosse ball rolling.  Several muscles tie into the IT band, and it may actually be issues with these muscles that are causing the pain sensation to manifest in the IT band.  As with most of our bodies’ mechanical systems, the root of the issue is not always where the pain is felt.  Often when the IT band becomes stiff, it rubs on the outside of the knee, causing pain.

While there are movements that will help stretch the IT band that may cause relief of the pain and help to maintain its proper function, you should first look at possible causes of the pain.  Otherwise, you are just treating the symptoms, not addressing the root cause.  You should also resist the urge to ignore the pain in the IT band and continue training without addressing its problems.  This route will likely result in you compensating in some way to reduce the pain, which can cause issues in other areas.

IT band problems can be caused by hip, hamstring, or glute weakness or over pronation while running.  Often the stress put on the IT band is the result of poor form.  A coach or physical therapist can look at your movement mechanics and help diagnose the cause of the pain.

Once you have determined the cause of the IT band stiffness and addressed those issues, you should begin a program of regular maintenance on it.  Always warm up the hips and knees first, and then you can incorporate these stretches into your mobility routine along with more traditional foam rolling.

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Ankles Crossed Forward Fold

1.     Start with feet together while standing

2.     Cross your right ankle over your left ankle

3.     Fold forward at the waist while creating a soft bend in your right knee

4.     Touch the ground or your shins with your fingertips

5.     Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side

 

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Figure Four

1.     Stand with feet hip width apart

2.     Bring your right foot over and above your left knee

3.     Flex your right foot and press your right knee towards the ground

4.     Stick your butt out and then down as you bend your standing leg

5.     Fold forward at the hips and reach your fingers towards the ground

6.     Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side

 

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Standing Quad Stretch

1.     Stand with your feet hip distance apart

2.     Bend your right knee and grab the top of your foot with your right hand

3.     As you draw your heel in, extend your tailbone down and keep your knees together

4.     Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side

 

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Twisted Triangle

1.     Step your right foot forward about three feet

2.     Turn your back toes in so that you can square your hips

3.     Fold forward at the hips and place your left hand on the ground about a foot and a half away from your right foot

4.     Extend your chest forward and lean into your left hand

5.     Reach your right arm up as you twist and press down through your right big toe

6.     Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side

 

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Seated Glute Stretch

1.     Start seated on the mat with feet flat on floor

2.     With your hands behind you, place your right foot over and above your left knee

3.     Flex your right foot as you extend your right knee away from your chest

4.     Keep your chest up and scoot your butt towards your left heel with the leverage of your hands

5.     Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side

 

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Hero’s Pose

1.     Sit on your heel with your knees together

2.     Begin to lean back placing your hands behind you as you reach the knees toward the mat

3.     Sit down between the feet

4.     From here if there is no pain in the knees you can lean back either onto the hands or the forearms

5.     Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the opposite side

These are just a few of the stretches you can do to treat IT band pain and conduct regular maintenance on it.  Proper IT band function is essential to so many other movements and you would be wise to do regular mobility with it.  Dave and Amanda are always available to help determine the source of your problem areas and to suggest ways to fix them.

Sources:

https://www.outsideonline.com/2142646/definitive-guide-banishing-it-band-pain-good

https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/8-yoga-poses-and-stretches-for-a-tight-it-band/slide-9

http://www.opedix.com/community-detail/combating-it-band-issues-in-crossfit

https://ashleyblackguru.com/it-band/

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