Welcome back to this week’s edition of 2-Minute Tuesdays. This week we are discussing one of the more common issues we hear about when talking with prospective clients, and that is IT band issues and IT band syndrome. The IT band is a thick band of tissue on the outside part of each of your legs that runs from your hip to your knee. When it encounters excessive stress for an extensive time, it can get inflamed and painful.
The IT band is often blamed for being too tight, but we often find that it is actually the muscles that are too weak that are contributing to the issue, not the tension of the IT band itself. With that in mind, we have recommendations for four different exercises you can do for your feet, knees, hips, and trunk to strengthen the muscles in those areas and help to better-support your IT band.
1) Foot Inversion and Eversion
The feet are one area of your body that you should consider strengthening if you are having IT band issues. Two exercises you can do for your feet are called foot inversion and foot eversion. For both of these exercises, you can be seated with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent.
Perform foot inversion by squeezing the muscles on the bottom sides of your feet to create a bigger arch in your foot, and then relax those muscles to let the arch return.
For foot eversion, think about squeezing the muscles on the outside part of your foot and lower leg to flatten your arch and pull the outside part of your foot up.
Action Step: Make sure to perform these exercises on both feet, not just on the side where your IT band symptoms are. Try performing each exercise for one to two sets of 20-30 seconds, doing five to six reps during each set.
2) Tibial Internal and External Rotation
The knee can be one of the most symptomatic areas when experiencing IT band issues. Consider trying tibial internal and external rotation to help strengthen the muscles that support the knee. For both of these exercises, you can be seated with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent.
Perform tibial internal rotation by pointing your left foot in towards your right foot, trying to spin your shin bone towards the opposite knee. Don’t focus on trying to spin the knee cap itself, but rather just the lower part of your leg/shin area.
For tibial external rotation, think about pointing your left foot out and away from your right foot with your calf spinning towards your opposite knee. Again, keep the intention on moving the lower part of your leg, not on the knee cap itself.
Action Step: Keep your focus on squeezing your muscles instead of trying to drive joint motion when doing all of these exercises. Similar to foot inversion and eversion, try performing each exercise for one to two sets of 20-30 seconds, doing five to six reps during each set.
3) Hip Internal and External Rotation
The hip is the top part of where the IT band lives and many muscles from the hips pull on the IT band, so it is imperative to keep this area strong and working well. Two exercises you can try doing are hip internal rotation and hip external rotation. Both of these exercises can be performed standing as long as you have something to hold onto to keep you balanced.
For hip internal rotation, put your weight on your right leg, allowing your left foot and leg to move freely over the ground. Gently squeeze the muscles on the front side of your left hip to point your left foot and knee towards your right leg.
For hip external rotation, have the same set up as with internal rotation – standing with all of your weight on your right leg. Then spin your left foot and knee away from your right leg by gently squeezing the muscles on the back side of your left hip.
Action Step: For hip internal rotation, try squeezing the muscle called “TFL”, and for hip external rotation try squeezing your glute (butt) muscles. Similar to foot inversion and eversion, try performing each exercise for one to two sets of 20-30 seconds, doing five to six reps during each set.
Related: Non-Rehab Tips For Low Back Issues
4) Trunk Rotation
The final area we recommend you strengthening if you are experiencing IT band issues is your trunk. Trunk rotation is an exercise that can easily be performed while seated. Make sure you are sitting upright as best you can and slowly turn your body to your left, squeezing the muscles in your trunk to help move you. Make sure there isn’t any motion that happens in your pelvis or hips, and only turn as far as your muscles will take you. Remember, these exercises are about strengthening muscles, not stretching muscles, so you should not be trying to get a stretch here. Instead, try to get the muscles of your trunk and core to gently squeeze and contract.
Action Step: For trunk rotation, make sure to not try to move too far with this motion. Less is more here, and focusing on using your muscles to move you and feeling those muscles contract is of the utmost importance. Similar to foot inversion and eversion, try performing each exercise for one to two sets of 20-30 seconds, doing five to six reps during each set.