You Can’t Stretch the Iliotibial Band!

Posted on by Ross Harris

A recent study by Falvey et al (2010) examined the anatomy of the IT band on 20 cadavers and tested various IT Band stretches. Their findings raise questions regarding the efficacy of many traditional treatment methods for conditions such as Iliotibial Band Syndrome and Patellofemoral Syndrome.

What is the Iliotibial Band

The ITB is a thick fibrous band which is an extension of the Tensor Fascia Lata muscle, but also receives most of the tendon of the Gluteus Maximus. It runs from the Iliac Crest to Gerdy’s tubercle on the lateral Tibia and has an attachment along virtually the full length of the femur (Falvey et al, 2010). It also connects to the Patella as it passes the knee.

What Falvey et al Found

The main finding of the research was that, even with an ideal IT band stretch, there was virtually no elongation of the IT Band – only about 2mm, which was an overall change in length of less than 0.5%. So basically, the IT Band is like an old piece of leather that is extremely rigid and resistant to stretch. The authors emphasize that current treatment protocols focusing on reducing tension in the IT Band are inappropriate and, that if our goal is to reduce tension on the lateral aspect of the thigh, we must focus on treating the muscular component of the Band.

So What Should We Do?

We need to STOP smashing our IT bands with massage and foam rollers, STOP trying to stretch the IT Band directly (which was extremely difficult to stretch correctly anyway!), and START focusing on the muscular component of the Band (Tensor Fascia Lata and Gluteus Maximus) which can be easily elongated by massage and stretching. I’ll be looking specifically at what the research says about Iliotibial Band Syndrome and Patellofemoral Syndrome in upcoming posts.

2 Responses to You Can’t Stretch the Iliotibial Band!

Gina says: 30/11/2012 at 12:48 pm

This is really helpful information, particularly as I was about to buy a foam roller for my ridiculously tense/painful IT band!

Ross Harris says: 30/11/2012 at 2:01 pm

Thanks for the reply Gina, you could still use the foam roller on your TFL and gluts! Or just simply massage and stretch these areas.


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