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METHODS TO STRETCH AND TREAT THE IT BAND SYNDROME -DO THOSE STICKS AND FOAM ROLLERS REALLY WORK?

John O’Halloran PT,DPT,OCS,Cert MDT,LATC,CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopaedic Physical Therapist

Over the last 5-7 years there has been a surge in my patients and clients questions about whether the IT Band can be treated effectively by lying on your side and compressing the band by rolling a stick or by the use of a foam roller. As with all my patients questions I have to ask myself if there is any evidence out there that has shown effective use of these popular pieces of equipment. The answer is that there is currently no peer reviewed journal article that I am aware of that shows the IT Band can be stretched and assume a new length. So when I tell my patients that the IT Band cannot be stretched I get a very puzzled or sad look on their faces as if they have done something terribly wrong and spent money on useless equipment. I am quick to explain myself and state the clinical reasoning as to the effects of rolling on a foam roller or rubbing the stick on their side of their leg. The effects of what is called “self myofascial release” are a shorted lived change in the viscoelastic properties of the dense IT Band. For those of you who are familiar with ACL knee injury and reconstruction may recall back in the day surgeons used to use strips of the IT Band as a graft for repair of an ACL tear. So the IT Band’s dense connective tissue is not intended to stretch and loosen to a new length.

So if the IT Band cannot be stretched am I wasting my time and money on the stick and foam roller?

No. There is a pain relieving mechanism that does occur with the repetitive compression of any tissue. It is very important that if you or someone you know that uses the stick or foam roller also be assessed by a clinician who is trained in the examination of impairments of the lumbopelvic and hip region. Muscle imbalances affect the orientation of the pelvis, and there are many peer reviewed journal articles that have demonstrated the effectiveness of stretching and strengthening certain muscles of the hip for conditions like IT Band Syndrome, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome to name a few.1, 2

If you have any questions regarding how to implement corrective exercises with self myofascial release use of the stick or foam roller please contact Dr . John O’Halloran at 336-501-5351.

1. Ferber R, Noehren B, Hamill J, Davis IS. Competitive female runners with a history of Illiotibial band syndrome demonstrate atypical hip and knee kinematics. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010. 40 :52-58.

2. Noehren B, Davis IS, Hamill J. ASB clinical biomechanics award winner 2006: A prospective study of the biomechanical factors associated with illiotibial band syndrome. Clin Biomech.2007; 22:951-956


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