IT Band Syndrome: Why Stretching/Rolling Is Not Helping You And What You Should Do Instead
Updated: Aug 24
Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome is a common condition faced by long distance runners. It is characterized by pain in the lateral side of the knee. While many people rely on stretching and rolling the lateral thigh to alleviate their pain, these methods are often not effective, and in some cases can make the pain worse. In this blog post, we will discuss what you should be doing instead to successfully treat IT band pain.
Understanding IT Band Pain Syndrome
The IT band is a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the hip to the knee, and it helps to stabilize the knee joint during movement. IT band pain syndrome occurs when the IT band becomes inflamed or irritated, resulting in pain and discomfort in the outside of the knee.
Stretching and Rolling: Why They Are Not Always Effective
Stretching and rolling are two popular methods used to manage IT band pain. However, these methods are not always effective, and there are several reasons why this may be the case:
The IT band is not a muscle: The IT band is a thick band of connective tissue, and it does not have the same elastic properties as muscles. As a result, stretching the IT band may not be effective in relieving tension or improving mobility.
The IT band is not the root cause of the pain: While the IT band may be inflamed or irritated, it may not be the core issue. Your pain may be due to poor running form, or weaknesses in other parts of the body, such as the quadriceps and glutes.
Rolling can be painful: the lateral side of the thigh is very sensitive when pressure is applied to it. From my experience, most people do not enjoy massage and foam rolling the IT band, and they do not get any significant improvement from doing so.
What You Should Do Instead
If stretching and rolling are not effective in managing IT band pain, what should you do instead? Here are some alternative methods that may be more effective:
Strengthen your leg and hip muscles: the main muscles that propel your body forward during running are your quadriceps, glutes and calves. By strengthening these muscles, you will make your body more resilient.
Adjust your running form: increasing your running cadence ( number of steps per minute) can be an effective method to reduce excessive strain in your IT band. Higher cadence will force you to take smaller strides. As a consequence, the landing will be less strenuous on your knees.
Manage your running mileage: IT band pain is an overuse injury. Hence, giving enough time to your knee to rest is essential for a successful recovery. Listen to your body and do not force yourself into pain. Failing to do so, will increase the chances of having flare ups, and will delay your recovery.
Stretching and rolling are two popular treatments for IT band pain, but may not always be the solution. Instead, focusing on strengthening your leg muscles, addressing running form, and a personalized treatment plan may be more effective in order to achieve long-term relief.
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