Looking For Exercises For IT Band Pain In Your Hip?
Play the video to learn which stretches to do (and which to avoid) to relieve hip pain from a tight IT band.
What Causes IT Band Pain At The Hip?
Your IT band, or Iliotibial band, is a long tendon-like material called fascia that runs down the outside of your leg from your pelvis (ilium) to your shin bone (tibia). That means it crosses 2 joints: your hip and your knee.
IT band pain in your hip is usually caused by the IT band rubbing over the widest part on the hip causing pain on the outside of the hip.
But the bigger questions is:
What causes the IT band to rub over the outside of the hip in the first place?
When I treat people with IT band pain in the hip, that's what I'm interested in finding out... not the cause of the pain (the IT band), but the root cause: what caused the IT band to become painful in the first place.
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The IT band pain may rub over the outside of the hip for a number of reasons:
Wide Pelvis: Women genetically have wider hips than men. That stretches the IT band farther over the hip than their male counterparts.
Weak Hip Muscles: Particularly the hip abductor and hip external rotator muscles. These are muscles on the outside and back of the hip collectively referred to as the gluteal muscles or glutes.
Tight Tensor Fascia Lata: This is a tiny muscle that attaches to the IT band and can pull the IT band tight.
Tight IT Band Hip Pain Stretches?
As you see from the three hip pain causes mentioned above, only ONE of the causes involves a tight IT band.
The first cause (wide pelvis), you can't change. You were born with it. Blame it on your mother.
In the second case, the hip muscles are actually already overstretched to the point where they can't hold your pelvis level over your leg when walking. In this case, you may not need to stretch your IT band more... You may need to stretch it less!
In the third case, you probably should stretch, but as noted above, you're probably stretching a muscle that attaches to the IT band rather than the IT band itself.
You Can't Stretch A Tight IT Band
If you read last week's post on pain when bending your knee, you might remember that the IT band is made of a stiff connective tissue called collagen that requires approximately 30,000-125,000 pounds per square inch to stretch.
You're probably not going to be able stretch your IT band with any amount of stretching, massage, or foam rolling. If you did try to stretch it, you'd probably end up tearing it instead.
However, you can stretch your Tensor Fascia Lata.
How To Stretch A Tight Tensor Fascia Lata
First, you should find out if the muscle is actually short. Not just that it feels sore or stiff, but that the muscle actually tests short. You can find that test in this post about hip flexor stretches.
Your tensor fascia lata is actually a hip flexor, so the stretch for it is going to be very similar to a kneeling hip flexor stretch.
However, your tensor fascia lata also rotates your leg and moves your leg out the the side (abduction), so you have to make a slight variation.
Use These Steps To Stretch Your Tensor Fascia Lata
Kneel with your sore leg on the ground and the opposite foot up in front like a lunge position.
Roll your pelvis underneath of you to keep your lower back in a neutral position
Push your pelvis forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh of your sore leg (the one you're kneeling on). Your lower back should stay neutral, not arched.
In order to feel the stretch more in the tensor fascia lata and relieve IT band pain on the outside of the hip, rotate your pelvis slightly away from the sore hip.
See the video above for more details on the tensor fascia lata stretch.
Should I Foam Roll My IT Band?
If you have trouble getting on and off the floor, then foam rolling your IT band is probably not a good idea. Foam rolling your IT band can also be quite painful, especially if you're putting your full bodyweight on the foam roll.
However, if you're an athlete and you kind of like that "hurts so good" type of pain, then foam rolling your IT band might be a good idea. It doesn't stretch the IT band per se, but it does relax the quadriceps muscle (vastus lateralis) that lies under the IT band, thus putting less tension on the IT band itself.
How To Foam Roll Your IT Band
Put the foam roll on the floor
Lie with your sore leg down perpendicular to the foam roll.
Put some weight through your arms so that you don't have your full bodyweight on the foam roll
Roll back and forth along the IT band from the hip to the knee, putting ONLY as much pressure on your leg as you can reasonably comfortably. More is NOT always better.
See the video above for a demonstration of how to foam roll your IT band
Relieve IT Band Pain Hip Pain From Weak Glutes
As noted earlier in this post, one cause of IT band pain in the hip is weak gluteal muscles.
Standing on one leg is a great way to to strengthen weak glutes, especially if you have IT band pain in your hip when you're walking.
If your IT band pain doesn't come on until you're doing more vigorous activities such as running, you might also try hopping and landing on one leg to get used to higher impact activities.
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