I’ve received several requests for my IT band rehab routine lately. It seems a lot of us suffer from IT band woes. I’m here to tell you that you, too, can push through it and make a comeback. Suffer no longer, running and cycling friends! Take back your run with some strengthening and stretching exercises that will keep your ligaments and connective tissues happy and healthy!
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. If you need a doctor, make an appointment with your sports medicine physician. I’m also not a certified personal trainer. I’m a runner and a running coach, and this is what’s worked for me and some of my athletes.
Iliotibial Band Rehabilitation (or, ITB Rehab!)
What is the IT band?
The iliotibial band, commonly referred to as the IT band or ITB, is a large piece of connective tissue (made of fascia in this case) that runs down the outside of your thigh from the hip all the way to the shin. It’s primary role is to make running and walking more efficient.
What is ITBS?
ITBS, or ITBFS, is iliotibial band syndrome or iliotibial band friction syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries, particularly among distance runners but also afflicts cyclists and even hikers. ITBS occurs when the iliotibial band is so tight that it rubs up against bone.
What are common symptoms of ITBS?
Issues associated with the IT band can vary from person to person, and from one season to the next. Some individuals may experience mild discomfort and can correct the issue relatively quickly. Others develop full-blown ITBS and need to take significant time off of their activity (usually running) and take a good look at biomechanics when they begin running again. Symptoms include a small bruise-like spot on the outside of the knee, possible swelling, pain or discomfort on the side of the hip or on the side of the knee (sometimes both), and difficulty going up and down stairs.
How do I fix it or avoid it completely?
The root cause of ITBS can be attributed to weak hip stabilizer muscles, biomechanics such as over-pronation or supination, road camber (if you run on the same side of the road day in and day out), uneven leg length, and high or low arches. There is also evidence to support a relationship between tight quadricep muscles and IT band tightness.
If you’re suffering from ITBS right now, you need to rest. After you’ve rested and the inflammation has ceased or eased up, you need to roll, loosen, and stretch the iliotibial band. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to roll out your IT band is not on the IT band itself. The connective tissue is already inflamed and painful, so why make it worse? You’ll want to roll on the outside of your quad, just next to the IT band. This shouldn’t be a “fast” roll, either. Take your time. If you can’t get the muscle to loosen up yourself, you may want to consider finding someone certified in ART and/or Graston therapies.
If you’re not suffering from ITBS at the moment and nothing’s inflamed or painful but you’re at-risk for developing ITBS or a recurrence of ITBS, you need to focus on strengthening your hip stabilizer muscles — mainly the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
I had a horrible bought of iliotibial band syndrome last May and I never want to repeat it. As such, I sought out medical help — ART, Graston, rolling, and strengthening have all become the name of my game. My routine consists of following this awesome video I found on YouTube. I’ve watched dozens of IT band rehab videos in my quest to find the best one, and this is it for sure. I highly recommend it.
But in case you prefer not to watch the video, here’s the routine:
Note: each exercise is per side with very little rest in between, unless otherwise noted.
30 lateral leg lifts, with resistance band
- lay on your side with resistance band around your ankles. Lift your leg and come back down. Do this 30 times per side.
30 clamshells, with resistance band
- still on your side, place the resistance band around your quads, just above the knee. With heels locked together, lift your knee up and back down. Do this 30 times per leg.
30 bridge with hip flexion
- Lay on your back. Lift one leg up, bent at the knee. With the leg in the air, raise yourself into bridge. Move your pelvis up and down 30 times. Switch legs and repeat.
5 sets of lateral shuffle, with resistance band
- In a standing position, place the resistance band around your ankles. Take 10 steps to the left and 10 steps to the right. That counts as one set. Do this four more times.
15 pistol squats
- One legged squats — with one leg raised, squat down until your femur is almost parallel to the ground. If you need to hold on to the wall or something to keep your balance, do it.
30 hip raises
- Standing on one leg, drop your hip to the side and raise it back up so your hips are even. When you’re in the “even” position, hold this for 6-8 seconds.
The following exercises are in addition to the video exercises. I do these in sets of 10 and repeat for a total of 30, but you can do them back to back if that’s better for you:
- backward lunges (10×3)
- forward lunges (10×3)
- side lunges (10×3)
- mini squats with medicine ball (10×3)
After I do all these fun leg exercises and my booty and hips are on fire, I rest for a little while (usually while I do my arm exercises), and then I roll. I roll slowly and start at the top of my leg, just below my hip and move down toward my knee. Depending on how tight my quads are, this could take up to 30-45 minutes per leg. Believe me, the time it takes to do these exercises and roll efficiently and effectively is totally worth it. The more you roll, the looser your muscles will become and the shorter time you’ll have to spend on the floor with Foamy.
So there you have it — the tried and true ITB rehab routine that I do several times per week. It has changed my life in terms of IT band pain. There are times that it flares up, of course, but it almost always comes back to me skipping a workout or forgetting to roll.
Try it for a month and see if it helps. Good luck!
TALK TO ME!
Do you have a tried-and-true ITB exercise that works for you?
Tell me the truth… do you foam roll?