If there’s one injury that plagues running friends more than any other it’s the IT Band. I’ve talked here about the specific things I do to keep mine happy since a major flare up over a decade ago.
If you’re someone that suspects they have an injury in their IT Band i.e., IT Band Syndrome (ITBS in short), don’t fret.
In this article, I’ve covered everything there is that you need to know about this injury and the treatment options you have to make a full recovery.
You’ll also find 5 incredible IT Band Stretches, that are based on yoga, from my experience and Beth – a certified yoga teacher, running coach, and Pure Barre teacher.
Let’s get started!
What Does IT Band Syndrome (ITBS) Feel Like?
To know what an IT Band Syndrome feels like, let’s first look at what an IT Band is. The Iliotibial (IT) band is a thick ‘band’ of connective tissue (fascia) that runs along the outside thigh all the way from your hip to your knee.
It happens to be the largest piece of fascia in the human body, and often one of the biggest pains for runners (and even cyclists!).
IT Band Syndrome occurs as a result of tightness due to repetitive movements. In this way, it’s an overuse injury.
It can lead to symptoms of pain, irritation, and inflammation in your knee as well as the surrounding tendons. The pain is usually felt on the outside of the knee, up the outside of the leg, and the hip.
Knee pain is the most common way it displays, but it is the IT band from where this is stemming from. Recovering from problems stemming from this can take a combination of IT Band Exercises, such as strengthening the muscles in the hips, foam rolling around your ITB not on it, and stretching the IT band and surrounding areas.
Treatment Options to Help Resolve IT Band Syndrome
Let me give you some good news – conservative and non-surgical treatment is usually all that you’ll need to treat ITBS.
Surgery is very rarely required. Let’s look at the treatment options you have as recommended by the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeries:
It’s best to avoid high impact activities – so if it hurts when you run, stop. Start by figuring out the root cause and tending to it.
This doesn’t mean stop doing everything. That isn’t solving the problem. It means stop doing things that hurt and start working through the hip, core and glute strength to resolve it!
Icing might make pain feel better, but in this case it’s actually making things worse. You have a tight muscle that you are causing to constrict further.
Try a hot epsom salt bath and using heat on your leg, glute and low back.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen may help decrease the pain and swelling, you’re experiencing. If you’ve let it go on long enough to lead to that stabbing pain.
Please consult your doctor for this as you’re not supposed to take these for an extended period of time. This is why it’s so important to work on rehabilitation, which leads me to my next point.
Stretches are highly encouraged to help with the tightness and to also increase flexibility. It’s the top way to treat (and also prevent) IT band syndrome. Let’s look at 5 stretches you can do at home that’ll help you with this injury.
According to Danny Singles,PT, DPT, MA, “I include it often with my patients as an adjunct to the strength and mechanics work. Due to its high tensile strength, you can’t actually stretch the ITB, however, stretching everything around it will help take tension off the ITB.“
5 IT Band Stretches Based on Yoga
Today we’re pulling some moves from yoga that will truly help you feel better and relieve some of the tightness. However, remember you cannot STRETCH YOUR WAY OUT OF ITBS!
It requires all the things mentioned above!By now, most runners know that adding a yoga practice to their training can help them in many ways, including helping to increase flexibility. There are many yoga poses that will help stretch the IT band and surrounding areas.
The five included below are the ones that I’ve found to be most effective over years of practicing and teaching yoga.
Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose
Practicing Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose (Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana) lying on your back is a wonderful way to isolate and stretch the IT band and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
I recommend having a strap, belt, or towel handy to place around your foot, which helps make the pose a little more accessible.Begin by lying on your back. Bend your right knee into your chest, flexing your foot. Place your strap, towel, or similar prop around your right foot and extend your right leg straight up above you. Hold on to the strap with your right hand as you press your shoulders into the floor.
Allow your right leg to slowly fall straight over to the left, pausing at the point where you feel a moderate stretch through the outside of your leg. It’s important to practice this pose gently; stretching too far too quickly can actually cause more harm than help. Hold this pose for five breaths, then switch and stretch the left side.
Are you trying these IT Band stretches as we go?? Don’t they feel amazing?!
Half Monkey Pose with Twist
Half Monkey Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana) is wonderful for opening up the hamstrings of the front leg, but when you add in a twist, it adds in a stretch through the IT band.
Begin kneeling with your stacked over your left knee. Extend your right leg straight in front of you, flexing your right foot. Start by finding Half Monkey Pose, folding forward with a flat back, stopping when you feel a comfortable stretch in your right hamstring. Hold for a few breaths, then find your way to twisting Half Monkey Pose by bringing your left wrist below your left shoulder and stacking your right shoulder over the left.
If the twist is difficult for you, you can bring a yoga block or other solid support under your left hand, which should make the twist a little easier. Hold the pose with the twist for five breaths, then gently release and repeat on the other side.
As you’re probably beginning to realize IT Band stretches involve a bit of core and hip strength because it’s not just about lounging around, we’re working the muscles to get to a resolution.Got knee pain? Might be a tight IT Band - Stretch it out with these poses from @runtothefinish Click To Tweet
Horizon Lunge allows you to open the outside of your top leg as well as strengthening the thigh of the top leg, so it’s a great pose for runners to try.
Start in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) with your right foot forward. Your right knee should be stacked directly over your right ankle. Your left heel stacks over your toes and the ball of your left foot. Raise your right arm up by your ear, reaching your hand in front of you, keeping the arm straight.
Rotate your right shoulder back behind you as you sweep your right arm down, bringing it parallel to the ground.
Rotate your hips to the side, coming to the knife edge of your left leg. The outside of your left leg should face down to the ground.
Hold for a few breaths, then repeat on the left.
Reclined Cow Face Pose
Many runners love Reclined Cow Face Pose (Supta Gomukhasana) because it gives you a wonderful stretch through the hips as well as the outer thighs. Begin by lying on your back, bringing your knees into your chest.
Cross your right thigh over your left, stacking your right knee on top of your left knee. Reach for your feet, drawing your feet closer to your chest to bring your legs in for a stretch. If you’re unable to grab your feet, bring your hands to your ankles or shins.
Hold for at least a few breaths, for as long as a minute or two. Be sure to hold the pose for an equal amount of time with the left knee on top of the right. If you only have time for one (find time for more), but I think this is the best IT Band stretch because you’re also relaxing and working the hips, a big part of what we all need.
Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana) is an intense pose to come into, but the great IT band stretch is worth it. Try practicing this pose after the other stretches shown here so your body is more open and ready to come into the pose.
Start by standing with your right foot about a foot to a foot and a half (30-45 cm) in front of your left foot. The toes of your right foot point directly forward as the toes of your left foot point at a 45 degree angle up and to the left.
In the full pose, you’ll bring your right heel in line with your left heel, but you can keep them a little wider, closer to being in line with your hips, if that helps you feel more steady.
Bring your legs straight, with an option to keep a small bend in the knees if you have tight hamstrings.Once you feel solid in your feet and legs, bring your left hand beneath your left shoulder, reaching it toward the floor. Stack your right shoulder on top of the left as your right hand reaches up above you to the ceiling.
You can bring a yoga block, stool, or other firm support under your bottom hand to make the pose more accessible.
Feel your spine lengthen as you inhale, allowing you to twist a little deeper on your exhales.
You should feel a stretch through the outside of your right IT band and outer thigh. Hold for five to ten breaths, carefully bring your hands down toward the floor, then switch sides.
This standing IT Band stretch is different than the one you might often see of crossing your legs and going in to a forward fold. That absolutely works, but we want to come at this from a variety of angles and really work our hips.
Special note: Pregnant runners are generally advised not to practice twists in yoga. If you are pregnant or have any other injury and are unsure how to modify these poses to fit your body, please ask a yoga teacher for help.
Don’t stop with just these stretches! You need a full plan to recover.
Hopefully these IT Band stretches have got you moving and not just waiting for the pain to go away. Keep practicing, keep implementing the strength exercises and it really will get better!
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