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5 Stretches to do Before Running to Relieve Pain from IT Band Syndrome
What is an IT Band Syndrome?
IT Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a common overuse injury among runners that affects the iliotibial (IT) band, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh connecting from the hip to the knee. A condition like this can cause significant discomfort, pain, and make it difficult for runners to continue with their training during symptomatic time periods. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce discomfort and return runners back to training like they used to. To better understand what we can do to relieve this pain we must better understand why this happens.
In running as you bend and extend your knee, the IT band glides over your upper thigh bone and top of the tibia. When you repeat this motion over and over again it slowly starts to tighten your IT Band. As the tissue begins to get tighter it begins to rub over your bony infrastructure. This is the equivalent to starting a fire with two sticks. The rubbing leads to intense irritation and inflammation that manifest into discomfort every step you run. Newest research suggests that ITBS is more likely caused by excessive compression of the richly vascularised and innervated layer of fat between the ITB and Lateral Femoral Condyle (LFC)(1). Because the tissue begins to get tighter and tighter there are some benefits to stretching prior to running.
Here are five stretches to do before running to relive pain from IT Band Syndrome.
1. Standing IT band stretch
The standing IT band stretch is a great way to stretch your IT band before running. Here's how to do it:
STEP 1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
STEP 2. Cross your left foot behind your right foot.
STEP 3. Lean your upper body to the right while keeping your left foot planted on the ground.
STEP 4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
This stretch targets the IT band and the muscles around the hip, helping to loosen up the entire area before running.
2. Lateral lunge stretch
The lateral lunge is another effective stretch for the IT band. Here's how to do it:
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a big step to your right with your right foot, keeping your left foot planted on the ground.
- Bend your right knee, keeping your left leg straight.
- Push your hips back and lean your torso forward, keeping your back straight.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
This stretch targets the muscles around the hip and primarily the groin, helping to loosen up the entire area before running.
3. Seated IT band stretch
The seated IT band stretch is a great stretch to do before running, especially if you're short on time. Here's how to do it:
- Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and cross your right foot over your left leg.
- Twist your torso to the right and place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides. This stretch targets the IT band and the muscles around the hip, helping to loosen up the entire area before running.
4. Foam rolling the TFL muscle
Foam rolling is a great way to loosen up tight muscles before running. Here's how to do it:
- Lie on your side with the foam roller just above your right hip bone.
- Use your arms to support your upper body and roll on the muscle between your right pelvis bone and your hip bone with the foam roller.
- Roll back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides. Foam rolling helps to break up tightness of the muscle which will release tension of the IT Band.
Remember the IT Band is connective tissue and not a muscle so inherently it will be tight and painful if you roll on it. You should focus on above the IT band to get the most impact on your discomfort.
5. Glute stretch
The glute stretch is a great way to loosen up the muscles around the hip before running. Here's how to do it:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Use your hands to pull your left thigh towards your chest.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
This stretch targets the glutes and the muscles around the hip, helping to loosen up the entire area before running.
Wearing a knee brace can be an option
IT band syndrome can be a painful and common injury among runners. By properly stretching before running, you can help reduce the effects of this condition. Remember stretching is not that end all be all but it’s a great way to get started on decreasing your discomfort. The five stretches discussed in this article can be beneficial, but you must always listen to your body and stop any stretches that cause pain or discomfort and seek medical advice if necessary.
Applying a knee brace might also be an option which helps decrease discomfort and allow you to continue running while you work on fixing the cause. Zamst offers the RK-1 Plus , an IT band knee brace which is specifically designed to reduce the strain on the outside of the knee. If running is important to you, Zamst provides you with the tools and bracing options to continue doing what you love to do. If you need help with choosing the best knee brace, the Zamst Brace Finder can guide you in finding the best knee brace to accommodate your needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
EVAN JEFFRIES is a physical therapist with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. He is also the owner of Evolving Motion and has vast knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and has treated many orthopaedic conditions by bringing a proactive approach to healthcare and lifestyle. Recently he has also been active on social media as an injury analyst mainly in related to injuries NBA players have sustained. Evan can be followed on his social media accounts.
1. Fairclough, J., Hayashi, K., Toumi, H., Lyons, K., Bydder, G., Phillips, N., et al. (2006). The functional anatomy of the iliotibial band during flexion and extension of the knee: implications for understanding iliotibial band syndrome. Journal of Anatomy, 208(3), 309e316