Stretches and Exercises for ITB (Iliotibial band)
Around two months back I picked up a knee injury. Initially, we thought it was a tendon injury, however, after closer inspection, my Dr. found out that it was an IT band (iliotibial band) Strain. Over the course of time, we realized that a lot of runners and cyclists face this injury, so I and my Dr.decided to publish this story on my rehab plan that my physiotherapist created for me.
Note: This blog is about my rehab plan and exercises. One can adopt these stretches and workout for strengthening their IT band and the supporting muscles. However, this was done under the supervision of a trained physiotherapist. I would recommend that you as a reader should visit a physiotherapist and or doctor and assess your injury and then proceed with a rehab plan according to their recommendation.
What is the Iliotibial Band (IT band)?
The ITB is a ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh — from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee. It stabilizes the knee and hip during running and cycling, but when it thickens and rubs over the bone, the area can become inflamed or the band itself may become irritated — causing pain. Also, incorrect foot position or saddle height while cycling can also strain the IT band.
How to Identify the Injury
While cycling I was noticing a sharp pain on the outside of the knee. This pain would persist while climbing up stairs. I also noticed the pain while driving a car.
How did I pick up the injury
The injury I picked up was due to multiple mistakes and conditions
- On my left leg, I have weak hamstring muscles. Primarily due to a historical ACL reconstruction surgery and not being able to complete the rehab 11 years back.
- This was compounded by an incorrect saddle height, I was riding with a saddle height which was probably 0.5 cms high due to a change in footwear.
- I was riding with my toes slightly in which ensured a strain on the outside of the leg.
- I had increased my training distance as well as speed in a very quick succession
Usually, a cyclist or a runner would pick up the IT band strain and injury due to
- Weak hamstrings
- Weak glute muscles
- Incorrect foot position
What do you do to fix the IT band Injury / Strain?
Thankfully my strain was not a major one. I did consult a physiotherapist to review the injury.
I had 2 weeks before a 400 BRM ride and had this window of 14 days to recover from the injury. The first thing was definitely identifying the injury which my physiotherapist helped in.
Note: The following plan was created for my injury by a trained and qualified physiotherapist. Depending on your injury grade one might follow the same plan. However, it is very strongly recommended to consult a doctor before following this protocol.
Rest, Ice as step one for IT band strain recovery
The first and most important thing was to let the injury rest. I stopped cycling for a few days. For the first three days, I was icing the injury and pain point for 5 minutes 3-4 times a day.
Stretches for IT band (Iliotibial band Stretches)
Basic IT band stretch
Firstly one cannot stretch the IT band as it is a ligament. So we focus on stretching the glutes and the muscles around the IT band.
The most basic stretch for the IT band is to stand with your legs crossed. With the leg, you want to stretch behind.
So if you are stretching your right leg, keep your right leg behind and then tilt your upper body from the hip towards your left until you feel a stretch on your right hip. Hold for 30 seconds while breathing. Please do not hold your breath.
Repeat the above a couple of times.
Lying Down Glute Stretch
I personally found this stretch to be the most effective and helpful stretch.
Lie down on the floor on your back. Cross your left ankle (the leg to be stretched) over your right thigh. Hold your right thigh with your hands and pull your right leg close to your chest until you feel a stretch on your left glutes. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat for 5 times.
Glutes and IT band stretch on the floor
If you are unable to lie down on the floor and perform the above stretch then you can do the following.
Go on a raised plank on the floor, then bend left leg (ie the one to stretch) in front of you on the floor with the knee and ankle forming a 90 degrees in front of you. Bend forward from your hips forward to feel the stretch on your glutes.
Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Another variation of the above is a seated swastika stretch.
Sit down on the floor with your leg to stretch making a 90 angle in front of you. Bend the other leg on your side also making a 90 angle. Bend forward from your hip, simultaneously lifting your right leg from the knee off the floor. Hold for 30seconds.
A lot of people recommended foam rolling to massage the muscles. Though a foam roller would have been good and very effective, I used a tennis ball instead to roll and massage the IT band and thigh area.
After 3 days of rest, I started with the above stretching sessions. I personally tried the first two and floor swastika the most.
From Day 4 I also started with the following workouts. Started with one set of 12 repetitions each and then increased the sets as I felt confident.
Note: You will need a mini resistance band to perform these. I ordered them from Amazon. This allowed me to work with various resistance levels.
The focus was to strengthen the glutes and the lateral quads.
Side Leg Raises
Lie down on the floor on your side with your body straight. Raise your legs from your hips, keeping them straight. Hold for a few seconds and bring them down. Neutralize the hips while doing this. Repeat for 12 counts.
You can add resistance with mini resistance bands around your ankle.
You can increase the repetitions or sets with progression.
Lie on the floor on your side with your knees folded. Tie a mini resistance band around your thighs. Lift and separate your knees while keeping your feet together. Neutralize your hips. Repeat for 12 counts.
Straight Leg Raises in Prone
Lie down on the floor on your stomach. Raise one of your leg from the hip above the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and bring the leg down. Repeat for 10 repetitions and 2-3 sets. If doing this with the resistance band loop then you can skip the hold and just do the raises.
Hamstring Curls with the Resistance band
Tie the resistance band around your ankles. Lie down on the floor on your stomach. Bend the leg from the knee while keeping the thigh on the floor. Even if you are can raise your leg 30-60degrees of the ground this should be helpful. Try to get a range of 90 degrees.
I did the stretches twice a day and the strength training once every day. If the muscles were sore, I would just do the stretches.
Started doing small rides from the 7th day onwards to check the progress and pain.
I hope this blog is able to help you heal your IT band injury.
PS: Remember to add these stretches to your daily routine before and after a cycle ride or your run. Also, add hamstring stretches and quad stretches.