If you’re an athlete, you may be well aware of the IT Band and the consequent ITB syndrome you’re at risk of. IT band stretches are extremely important to help prevent this, as well as, keeping your knee and other parts of you body healthy. The Iliotibial band is a thick portion of the muscle tensor fasciae latae. This is a band that connects the thigh and the knee. Excessive friction of this band against the bone, which occurs due to long hours of sitting, running, running more miles than one is used to, cycling, or excessive walking.
What Is the Iliotibial Band
The IT Band, also commonly known as the Maissiat’s Band, is responsible for knee stabilization. It also helps the hip extend, abduct and rotate while we walk, run, or cycle, among other activities. When we lean forward, slightly stretching the knee, the IT Band is responsible for supporting the knee against gravity.
It originates from the lateral thigh and connects hip muscles to the lower leg tibia, thus playing an important role in the movement of the thigh. Like other fascia, it is formed by dense connective tissue- a form of fibrous connective tissues that are extremely tough. These fibrous connective tissues produce collagen making it a very strong body structure. Collagen is a protein found in nature and is one of the strongest ones. The collagen fibers form a straight line that gives the IT Band strength in the direction we apply strength to our muscles. If force is applied in another direction, the IT Band will not produce as much strength.
What Causes Iliotibial Band Syndrome ITBS
The IT band is narrow near the knee and is overused often by the likes of athletes in running or cyclists in cycling, or due to other sports activities, irritating or inflaming this band. It may rub against the outer knee or across the hipbone due to overdevelopment or tightening, causing Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), commonly referred to as runners knee.
Any person suffering from ITBS may feel pain on the front part of the knee, near the hip or the lower thigh. However, ITBS is treatable, primarily through IT band stretches that help loosen tight muscles, improve flexibility, as well as contribute towards prevention of such issues in the future. Other treatments include ice, rest, compression, and elevation.
ITBS may also develop due to training errors, anatomy problems such as difference in leg lengths, bowed legs, or abnormal pelvis tilt. Such conditions can cause the IT band to become tight causing increased friction leading to irritation, pain, and inflammation.
The 4 Best IT Band Stretches
When you suffer from ITBS, the idea is to loosen the muscle and promote flexibility again. The pain you experience may stretch from the knee, hip to the lower back. It may be felt in one or all three parts of the body, for which reason it is important to stretch your thigh and hips muscles through IT band stretches and iliotibial band stretch. Below we look at 4 of the best IT Band stretches to relieve the pain and loosen the iliotibial band:
Foam Roller IT Band Stretches
By far one of the easiest and most effective IT band stretches. Foam roller is iliopsoas stretch that can help reduce the stiffness of the hip flexor muscles. Place a foam roller below your hip, on the side, and roll back and forth over your IT band your knee to your hip. Repeat it several times, and ensure you don’t go too fast – no more than one inch per second. You should be able to feel a stretch in the side hip muscles and thigh muscles. If your muscle is tight you should feel a some pain when doing your IT band stretches. A sore pain feeling is normal. It might be a really sore pain, but should not be a sharp pain. If it is your first time or your muscle is really tight, to alleviate some of the pain try rolling out on the carpet instead of hard floor. Also, use your other leg and arm to brace yourself allocating less weight on the roller. Conversely, if you are looking for a deeper stretch try rolling out on a hard surface applying as much weight / pressure to the roller as possible. There are different rollers. Typically the black rollers are harder than the white rollers. However, all different colors and hardness are available today. You do not need to roll out the tightness in your all in one session. Roll over each muscle 10-20 times then wait to do it again 12-24 hours later. Use your foam roller before or after exercising, 1-7 days a week. “Rolling out” has become one of the most popular IT band stretches, but can also be used for your hamstring, quad, calf and other muscles as well. Highly Recommended.
Clamshells IT Band Stretch
The clamshell is a relatively easy IT band stretch exercise that will help loosen the thigh and hip muscles, allowing you to relieve the pain. You can perform it with or without a resistance band by lying sideways and wearing the band across the thighs and stretching.
4-Point IT Band Stretches
Also known as the ‘World’s Best Iliotibial Stretch’ this particular variety of the IT Band Stretch is named after the 4 steps involved in the stretch. Lying in a sideways position, pull back your knee, hold your foot. Then raise your knee upwards and stretch it to the ground. Use your other foot as leverage to push it further down by placing it on top of the other knee. Doing this, you should feel a stretch in the front and side of your thighs.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The psoas muscles are responsible for the hip movement, so in order to loosen them, an iliopsoas stretch can help. In this stretch, you can sit down with one knee in front and the other stretched at the back. Stretch your upper thigh muscles by bending your hip forward.
There you have it – your guide to IT Band stretches complete with some of the best exercises!