7 Best Stretching Exercises For Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome is inflammation of the connective tissue between the lateral or outside aspect of the thigh, from the pelvis to the tibia, crossing both the hip and knee joints. To help prevent ITBS it’s important to have a stretching routine based solely on the areas affecting the inflammation.

Physiology behind iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the result of inflammation and irritation of the distal portion of the iliotibial tendon as it rubs against the lateral femoral condyle, or less commonly, the greater tuberosity.

What is inflammation and how does it affect the body?

Inflammation is a defensive tissue response of the body to tissue injury. It includes the dilation of arterioles (a small branch of arteries) and an increase in capillary permeability meaning:

The capillaries forces out more water, increasing the production of the tissue fluid. This enhanced rate of tissue fluid formation results in the tissue swelling referred to as oedema.

The tell tale signs are: rubor (redness), calor (increased heat), tumor (swelling), dolor (pain), and functio laesa (loss of function). 

Stretching the iliotibial band is the best prevention method

This includes maintaining flexibility and strength of the low back, hips, knees, and leg muscles, and is key to avoiding recurrence.

Maintaining strength and flexibility in the lower back, hips and quadriceps in not an easy task. They are heavily abused and used in our every day life.

Every time we sit down such as working in an office chair, watching tv or eating dinner we are elongating the superficial backline (The line of the back of the body running from the eyebrows along our posterior meeting at the toes). When we elongate two major physiological reactions happen:

  1. The superficial front line (running along the anterior/front of the body) begins to shorten. This means that the hip flexors and quads become smaller and tighter.
  2. The superficial back line begins to become weaker as the muscles are overstretched and elongated.

This means that we need to take a two pronged approach to treat and prevent ITBS. This includes strengthening the superficial back line and elongating the superficial front line.

Stretch what you strengthen, and strengthen what you stretch.

Strengthening the superficial back line

Hamstring curls

How To:

  • Find a place in your home where you can loop your stretch band around. A few ideas could be lounge foot, or dining table foot.
  • Laying on your stomach place the band around the right foot.
  • Bend the knee as far back as you can towards the glutes.
  • Repeat 15 times.

Cobra lifts

How To:

  • Laying on the stomach bring our hands by the waist. Fingers facing forward and the palms flat.
  • Take the knees a bit wider than hip width apart.
  • Push your hips into the floor. 
  • Lift your heart using the organic lift of the spine. 
  • The feet remain flat on the floor unlike locus.
  • Repeat 10 times. 

Bow

How To:

  • Starting laying on the ground face down.
  • Bend the knees and bring the heels towards your sit bones/bootie ;).
  • Gently lift the chest through a small extension.
  • Reach around and grab your ankles.
  • Exhale extend and lift the torso towards the sky.
  • Fully extend the legs as far as your body will let you.
  • Ensure that the belly button is drawing in towards the spine.

Elongating the superficial front line

Camel Pose

How To:

  • Kneeling knees hip width apart, bring the heart over hips and knees. Relax the pelvis sacrum and coxyx, relax the lower back.
  • Inhale the pelvic floor up and activate the deep core, lift everything forward and up. Depress the shoulders down the back. Firm your inner thighs push your hips forward. 
  • Separate your hands and lift your sternum up and over. If you feel like you would like to take it further drop your hands down to the earth. Keep your elbows straight and shoulders down the back
  • Walk your hands towards the outsides of your feet. Keep weight in your legs and thighs are active. Keep elbows in line with the shoulders. 

Bridge/Wheel

How To:

  • Starting laying on the ground face up.
  • Place your palms above your shoulders.
  • Fingers should be facing the shoulders.
  • Knees bend and feet come to the bottom of the sit bones.
  • Depress your weight into your feet and hands.
  • Lift the body, engage your core and open your heart.
  • Try to walk your feet closer towards the hands.

RUNNERS LUNGE

How To:

  • Coming into a lunge position, keep your pelvis tucked under and knit the ribs and hips together.
  • Bring your pelvis low and let the hips open.
  • Interlace your fingers and take them behind your back.
  • Ensure that your shoulders are stacked over your hips. It should feel like a mini backbend.
  • Engage the supporting knee and drive it forward. Allow the ground to stop the knee from moving.
  • Resist for 10 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this several times.

Quad Stretch

How To:

  • Staying in your lunge position reach around and grab the back foot. If you are too tight you can use a strap. As well as using the side of the wall for stability.
  • Bring the foot as close as you can to the glute.
  • Tuck the pelvis up and under like your try to scoop it forward and up.
  • If you need a little more of a stretch engage the glutes and use them to drive the pelvis forward.

Stretching the glutes and hip flexors

Below are two great stretches for the glutes and hip flexors if you want to go a little deeper you can check out my article on: 4 piriformis stretches to release the glutes and stretch the hip flexors.

Quad Stretch

How To:

  • Bring your right knee to the wall.
  • Allow the top of the right foot to rest on the wall.
  • The left leg extends out in front of you as though you are lunging.
  • Bring your shoulders back to meet the wall. Or as close as you can get them.
  • Resist for 10 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this several times.

Glute Stretch

How To:

  • Laying on your back with your knees bent.
  • Bring your right foot across so that it is just below the left knee.
  • Bring your hands around the left thigh.
  • Use your hands to pull the legs closer towards your chest.
  • Resist for 10 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this several times.

Stretching the iliotibial band

How To:

  • Laying on your back with your right leg in the air.
  • Wrap your strap across the pads of the right foot.
  • Using your strap gently move the right foot across the body towards the left hip.

You will want to perform this program at least three times a week in order to see results and get relief. For the extra-motivated you can do this program as many times as you like.

Let me know which stretches helped you illiotibial band syndrome the best! If you need some motivation or personal feedback join me for a class. Schedule is as follows: Class Schedule/

Stay strong and flexi,

Vanessa Barthelmes.

Articles You May Be Interested In:

21 Beginner Stretches For Runners

How To Measure Your Hamstring Flexibility

Why You Should Avoid Static Stretching Before Exercise

15 Stretches To Lengthen The Quads

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/capillary-permeability#:~:text=If%20capillary%20permeability%20is%20increased,production%20of%20the%20tissue%20fluid.

https://www.medicinenet.com/iliotibial_band_syndrome/article.htm

https://accessphysiotherapy.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=333&sectionid=40013175#40013682

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