Stop rolling and stretching your Iliotibial Band!
Many runners experience lateral knee pain in their running career. Many will start lying on foam rollers torturing themselves to try and relieve the pain. Others will try to stretch the pain away. Stop both of these habits. Both of these techniques will not help the problem and may just irritate it.
The Iliotibial band (ITB) “is a thick band of fascia formed proximally at the hip by the fascia of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and tensor fasciae latae muscles.” (Worsley, 2022) The vastus lateralis (VL) is also closely associated with the ITB. Symptoms of ITB syndrome often include lateral knee pain, snapping or popping at the knee and lateral hip pain. Individuals usually demonstrate weakness in the gluteus maximus and medius and tightness in the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) and VL. In treating the symptoms from the ITB we should address these areas.
Instead of foam rolling the ITB try releasing the tensor fascia latae and vastus lateralis instead. The TFL is located in the anterior/lateral hip region, think of the area where the front pocket of your pants lies. To release this muscle lie on a foam roller in a semi-prone or semi-side-lie position. Roll around slightly until you find the most tender spot in that front pocket area. Once you find that tender spot hold pressure for 30 seconds to up to 2 minutes or until a release is felt. Now roll more onto your side. Roll up and down on the foam roller until a tender spot is felt, this will be the area of your VL. Repeat the same procedure as the TFL. Find the tender spot and hold pressure on it for recommended time or until a release is felt. (Brookbush, 2016)
Onto strengthening, let’s now address the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. To strengthen the gluteus maximus I prefer to give my clients bridges. Lie on your back with your knees bent, walk your feet close to your buttocks. (this foot position can help prevent hamstring cramps). Tighten the muscles in your buttocks and lift your hips off of the floor and hold at the top for 2-3 seconds. Repeat about 20-30 times. To progress try going onto one leg. To strengthen the gluteus medius roll onto one side. Bend the bottom knee and straighten the top leg out. Bring the top leg slightly back and keep the knee locked as you lift that leg up towards the ceiling. Hold at the top for 2-3 seconds and return. Repeat 20-30 times. To progress add a mini band above the knee or add an ankle weight. Other strengthening options are done in standing by placing a mini band above the knees and sidestepping and or walking forward and backward. (Brookbush 2016)
I hope this helps. If you have any questions you can always reach out to your favorite physical therapist for an evaluation.
Brookbush, Brent. “Tibial External Rotator Release and Lengthening Techniques.” Brookbush Institute, 2016, https://brookbushinstitute.com/courses/lateral-thigh-flexibility.
Worsley, Calum. “Iliotibial Band: Radiology Reference Article.” Radiopaedia Blog RSS, Radiopaedia.org, 26 Oct. 2022, https://radiopaedia.org/articles/iliotibial-band?lang=gb.