What is the best way to stretch your IT band?
Trick question! You can’t actually lengthen your IT band, so there’s no best way to do it!
A 2008 study found out it would take ~2,000 lbs of force to lengthen your IT-band 1%. They described this large amount of force as “far outside the human physiologic range.” To put it another way, the amount of force was superhuman.
The IT band is actually a dense web of connective tissue that meshes into many structures in your thigh and knee, so this isn’t surprising.
So, again, your IT band is not going to be lengthened by “stretching” it. That’s why so many people have been “stretching” their IT band and foam rolling it and don’t see any results. They also won’t see results because their “tight” IT band isn’t actually the problem….more on that later.
It's commonly thought that the reason someone has pain on the side (or front) of their knee is a “tight” IT-band…and that the “solution” to this knee problem is to foam roll it, stretch it, massage it, etc.
And if you like foam rolling your ITB and feel better after it, then keep doing it! Just realize that instead of stretching you are compressing the tissues on the outside of your leg and causing a bit of relaxation via how your nerves/brain react to that compression. And our recommendation would be to limit foam rolling to ~20-30 seconds on each side.
What To Do Instead
There are many potential problem areas that can be causing this type of pain – it could be a mobility or motor control issue somewhere from your foot all the way up to your back and anything in-between.
Some of the common problems we see in people who have knee/hip pain and were told it was their “tight” ITB are: limited hip mobility (commonly internal rotation), poor neuromuscular control of the lower extremity, and/or limited ankle dorsiflexion; in runners, could also be training error or running mechanics issue.
A great Physical Therapist can check your movement, and find out the true underlying cause of your lingering pain.
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