I’ve been trying to do stretches and mobility exercises to get over a very long-running IT band issue in my right leg. I think it was on a recent TR podcast where I heard someone say that it’s not possible to stretch/relax the IT band once it’s tightened up over time. Something about tendons not being like muscles, in that they don’t stretch and once they’ve tightened they’re like that for life unless you get surgery done.
I think you misheard. You cannot stretch the IT band. The IT band and muscles that slide alongside of it get stuck together, causing the problems. You can fix that, basically by forcing them apart on either side of the band all along.
Here’s a video, it’s older, but it addresses it. Around 4:15 is where he discusses sticking a ball on either side of it and using it to restore the sliding surfaces. I’d watch the entire thing.
That’s the same guy who was a guest on the show, his first round of videos where he did one a day for a year.
You can absolutely sort out IT band issues, but it takes 1) time 2) consistency 3) root cause analysis
The Kelly Starrett video is really good and its basically how i got my issues sorted out over time.
The biggest thing though was figuring out WHY my IT band(s) were causing me grief. I had been doing all the right things to try and loosen them for the better part of 9 months without any sustained relief. Bike fit did it for me. Got that changed and within two weeks I was basically pain free as the reason for my issues was gone.
Some are going to have other causes, but it’s important to try and sort that part out if you arent seeing relief as all you are doing is continuing to aggravate them.
I cannot emphasize #3 enough…IT band problems are a symptom of a larger issue. The majority of the time is is related to weak glutes.
I struggled for over a year with IT issues…did it all- icing, foam rolling, stretching, KT Tape (complete voodoo, FWIW), etc. Nothing worked until I got serious about strengthening my glutes (and really the whole kinetic chain down my leg).
One-legged squats, “Running Man” squats, Monster Walks w/ therapy bands, etc. Also find a balance pad and do assorted squat, reach exercises on one leg (great for building up your stabilizing muscles in your ankle / calves).
If you only focus on the IT Band, you won’t solve the problem.
I used to have massive IT band issues… buy a foam roll, and follow these instructions.
This will alleviate the symptoms, and loosen the tendon over time so the symptoms become less and less. They key to the foam roller working is time + consistency.
But you will definitely want to find the underlying cause - for me, it was bad running shoes exacerbated by a outside (supination) foot-fall. If you are having IT band issues on the bike, I’d start with cleat placement and/or arch support, and work up the leg from there in terms of diagnosing.
In my opinion forget stretching and rolling. It’s all about strengthening the hip area. Check out this routine in the link. After getting mine sorted I now just do hip hikes and the side steps with a band around my legs for maintenance. Haven’t had a issue in years. https://youtu.be/ydcy3dPf__M
I was just diagnosed with ITB Friction Syndrome. I never had ITB problems in the past, but post race/riding this season (Oct) I took a couple weeks off. I started back with new shoes and had no issues the first ride. Mid ride the next day my ITB was screaming at me. I’ve been battling controlling pain ever since. Going back to my old shoes haven’t solved the problem. Went to PT and have been stretching and rolling daily now. As long as I never skip a day the pain is mostly gone, but miss a day and it’s back.
So the only thing that has changed was my new shoes and some time off the bike after a long and grueling race season. I keep playing with my cleats and raising my seat a few mm to find the sweet spot without success.
For me, from running was weak and non-firing glutes. Thankfully, hasn’t affected me on the bike (even when I couldn’t run more than 2km), but I think that’s more luck than anything I’ve done as haven’t been consistent on the exercises I was given.
I do get glute doms occasionally, so I’m assuming once their firing, their firing…
One additional thought…I did get two cortisone shots in the bursa sac in my knee. The inflammation there was so deep that no amount of icing was gonna reduce it.
The cortisone shots gave me temporary relief and allowed me to keep training (my issue was running). It did not however solve my problem…rather, it alleviated a symptom. I continued to train but spent the earlier-mentioned time to properly address the root cause of my problem (weak glutes).
Anyone really suffering from the IT band issues I recommend this:
There is basically a constantly updating compilation article of science and research based info on the topic. Same also for PFPS/runners knee i.e. front knee pain.
It’s not free and you probably wont find a solution from there but it’s worth it if you are really interested. Potentially saves you wasting money on useless things like physios that will tell you to go to the gym (no evidence has been found btw on muscle imbalance causing/solving the ITBS).
However the very short version goes something like this:
ITB syndrome is not completely understood and not much research is going into it so most of the “wisdoms” around it are old or not scientifically valid. However foam rolling it definately is not a solution, it might help when e.g. the muscles it attaches to are tight, but ITB itself is super strong, is not really moving/sliding relative to the quad muscle and is not “moldable”. Massage might relive the pain and might generally be helpful, like the gym, icing or other treatments but they are unlikely to solve the main issue. The actual problem is not the ITB itself but probably comes from the friction created by it to the bony bit under the ITB on the side of your knee, where some irritation starts to build up and create a bursa or some sort of fatty callus type of thing that is getting inflamed/painful. Some experimental surgeries have been done where removing that abnormal bursa/fatty stuff (even that is not figured out by science what it actually is) has solved the issue, without touching the ITB.
Me personally I have found some relief only from Voltaren Forte gel which is like ibuprofen but in a gel form directly applied to the painful spot twice a day. Other help has come from fine tuning the bike fit (cleat position, saddle height) and minimazing the time you spend having the knee at the painful angle, i.e. slighlty bent. (higher cadence, laying on the sofa/bed with leg straight). But gone is it not, just manageable…
I’ve been cycling for years and did 70.3 from 2019-2020. Never had an IT BAND issue from cycling. I did get RUNNERS KNEE once, but that was it. For the past 2 years, I have been an endurance cyclist, finishing each week with a 3hr/60mile ride, and once a month a century ride. Never had an issue. HOWEVER, in NOV of 2022, I did a century in the cold and halfway through the ride, I felt my left IT band (outside knee) start to flare. I finished the ride, took some NSAID and was good to go. Rested 2 days and resumed training without issue. In DEC of 2022, I did a 7hr ride and the issue returned. Same treatment and rest time, back to training later that week. Yesterday was another 100mile ride and the flare up returned after the 4hr mark. NSAID after the ride and I felt fine…until bed time. I could not sleep! It hurt like hell. NSAID and rest!! I am taking at least a week of the bike and from exercise. Why is this happening? I built up to this mileage slowly over time and consistently.
No new shoes or gear. I cross train 1-2 days a week to work on hamstrings and glutes, and especially lateral movement and single leg action. No issues or pain. I have started low speed running in SEPT…averaging 30miles a week. Every other week, I do a 8-10mile run and a 13.1-run once a month. I read that running does not strengthen glutes and can lead to an imbalance and IT issues. Is this possible?
regardless, REST is on the menu, but I would love to keep IT pain away on long rides. BWR AZ is coming.
My experience with IT band problems is hopefully in the distant past. Back in 2006 or 7 whilst on a slow group ride and after the cafe I felt a stabbing pain in my right knee. Apparently my left leg trying to compensate for my oversized right leg had tightened its IT band, which in turn had pulled the right patella out of alignment. So instead of running smoothly it was rubbing against the bone
Fortunately I had caught it in time and was able to manage it with rigorous stretching.
A bike fit in circa 2013 noticed that the left leg was longer than the right and shimmed the latter,. Touch wood Ive not had a knee problem since.
The better I get at any athletic pursuit, the more I realize I need to be better at all the others. Put another way, running decently high mileage (60+mpw) taught me that running alone is far from enough training for running. Put even another more specific way: I occasionally get ITBS crop up out of no where, and it almost always stems from one or both 1) lack of supplemental strength work or 2) lack of foam rolling and stretching.
My belief is that neither stretching nor strengthening alone are enough for ITBS. N=1, anecdotal, but my path to success hinged on both.