Experiencing pain behind the knee and laterally along the leg? You could be suffering from ITB syndrome. The good news is you can use a range of stretches to alleviate pain. Prevent ITB & knee pain with these 5 ITB syndrome exercises.
Today we will go through five stretches using a foam roller to treat ITB syndrome and 5 exercises to prevent ITB syndrome.
An injury to the iliotibial band, also known as the IT band is one that many endurance athletes such as runners or cyclists fear as it can be extremely painful and debilitating. When it is injured not only can it make exercising extremely difficult, but it can make daily tasks such as walking down a flight of stairs excruciating.
Let’s talk about what the IT band is, why injuries to that area are so common and then we will chat about some stretches to do to avoid an injury or if you want to alleviate pain.
In a nutshell, your IT band is a dense collection of fibers which begins from the outside of your hips to the exterior of your thigh and knee down to the beginning of your shinbone. When engaging in activities where you bend your knees constantly such as walking, hiking, cycling and running you are more likely to injure your iliotibial band which is why this injury is so common amongst athletes, especially runners.
Usually when you have damaged this body part you will often find a nagging pain on the outer part of your knee which is referred to iliotibial band syndrome, interestingly enough due to the location of the pain, when athletes feel symptoms they often mistaken believe they have a knee injury such as a lateral meniscus tear.
This pain occurs due to friction against the lateral femoral epicondyle- the outer part of the knee joint which is frequently a result of the tensor fasciae latae, a thigh muscle which helps balance the pelvis during standing, walking and running overworks to compensate for under utilized gluteal muscles.
Athletes can protect themselves from this injury by wearing correct running equipment, stretching before exercises and running on flat surfaces. Moreover, it is important to not exert your limits and push yourself too far during endurance activities as this can cause stress to the area.
A foam roller can help you avoid getting the dreaded IT syndrome, however it is important to use it correctly to ensure you don’t injure yourself. Foam rolling directly on the IT band can actually make the pain more severe as the IT is a tissue, not a muscle.
Due to this, it is better to treat the areas around it such as the calves, hip abductors, hamstrings, glutes and the vastus lateralis.
So now that we’ve explained what the IT Band is, how IT syndrome can occur and why athletes are more likely to get it, let’s delve into how to prevent it and also recover with it by using a foam roller.
Before we move into the foam roller moves for ITB syndrome there is one thing I want to make really clear. Foam rolling does not work unless you stretch immediately afterwards.
This is due to physiology and structure of the muscles. When we roll the muscle groups we are looking to break down dense connective tissue. As we continue to roll the muscle begins to flatten much like rolling doe with a rolling pin.
Muscles of the leg are bipennate and parallel muscles. Both types of muscles are larger in size in the mid point of the muscle body and taper as the muscle moves closer towards the insertion point.
It is due to this shape and formation that the foam rolled muscle can not stay in its flattened form and will return to its original shape making the foam rolling session redundant.
With that being said you may be thinking, why would I even try the 5 foam rolling methods?
Foam rolling is highly effective when we team it with stretching as it breaks down connective tissue allowing you to get deeper into your stretches and gain a deeper muscle release.
The hip flexor is a key group of muscles that play a major role in your ability to move your lower body. They help you do things such as swivel, walk, kick and bend and strengthen these muscles through foam rolling should help reduce your chances of injuring your IT band.
Following your foam rolling session follow it up with stretching the hip flexors in a lunge position.
In general, this is a great exercise as it loosens up your calves and aids with ankle mobility which can enhance injury prevention to your ankle and performance in sports.
When you complete this exercise you are also loosening up the three muscles that are connected to your pelvis, the pubococcygeus, puborectalis and iliococcygeus. This should help with your hip mobility which in return should lower the stress on your lower back.
This is a fantastic exercise for the quads as runners and cyclists rely heavily on that muscle. It can also help improve the flexibility of your knee and potentially lower the stress on your knee caps, while also enhancing your hip mobility.
Alternatively you can check out my 15 stretches to lengthen the quads.
Foam rolling your glutes is helpful as the gluteal muscles are the largest muscle throughout your entire body due to its responsibility of maintaining posture. Having strong glutes enables you walking up large flights of stairs and activities such as running.
An effective yet simple exercise to begin with is the hip bridge utilizing a resistance band.
** Note the above version is an extreme version of the exercise. If you can only lower 25 degrees that is completely normal. Don’t let the degree of intensity in the video discourage you.
When you believe you have injured your IT band it is important to visit a physician and confirm.
Moreover, as eager as you might be to workout, you should definitely take a break from doing high endurance activities. The worst thing that you can do when you are hurt is putting more stress on the injured area as it can take longer to heal and cause more severe damage. Your body needs time to recover and now is the time to strengthen the muscles that caused this injury in the first place.
Not being able to do high intensity exercise can be frustrating, especially as it is a tool many use to cope with stress, but you can use this time to take care of yourself by sleeping, eating healthy and meditating while also foam rolling to increase the strength of the muscle groups surround your IT band and ensuring that you don’t injure this body part again.
Did these exercises help your ITB syndrome? Have something to add? I would love to hear about it.
In happiness and health,
Check out my flexibility classes and online coaching.
5 things you need to know about your IT band
8 Foam Rolling Moves That’ll Remove Every Bit of Stress in Your Body
7 Foam Rolling Exercises Your Body Is Begging You To Do
The Best Stretches for Tight Hip Flexors