If you feel a pain that runs between your hips and knees that worsens after activities like running, cycling or jogging, your IT band may be to blame. The IT band is connective tissue that runs from your hips to the top of your shinbone. If this tissue rubs against the thighbone, it can cause pain in that region.
IT band syndrome (ITBS) is sometimes caused by excessive running on a track in one direction or downhill running. Pain in this area is often due to overuse. While some cases of ITBS are worse than others, physical therapy and stretching are usually recommended. Of course, you should always consult your doctor about any recurring pain. But there are specific stretches, like the supine stretch with a strap, that may help prevent and relieve some of the pain caused by ITBS.
What does the supine stretch do for the body?
The supine stretch stretches the hip, hamstring, calf and low back, making it the perfect stretch to relieve pain associated with ITBS. Using a strap allows you to support and control the movement of your leg when stretching. If you don’t have a strap you can use a resistance band or even a towel.
The common mistakes people make when doing the supine stretch
Having a strap for a stretch offers a lot of control if you know how to use it correctly. I find that a lot of my clients move their leg too quickly while performing the supine stretch. It’s also common to be unsure of where to hold the strap and how to comfortably move your leg.
I’ve also seen my clients make mistakes regarding the positioning of their feet. The foot of the leg being stretched should be flexed for easy band control. To ensure that you’re not making any of these common mistakes, follow these tips:
- Become familiar with your strap, and make sure it’s the correct tightness for your ability. I prefer using a yoga strap since it is not elastic and you can have greater control.
- Move your leg slowly and gently when performing the stretch.
- Keep your foot flexed when wrapped in the strap.
How to perform the supine stretch correctly
When performed correctly, the supine stretch can also help with pain in the hip and hamstring. I advise my clients to keep their left leg bent. This helps keep the low back on the ground and avoids pulling on the muscles of the low back. Follow these five steps if you’re ready to try the move:
- Lie on your back with both feet out in front of you. Wrap the strap around the bottom of your right foot. (Bend the left knee, especially if your low back feels tight.)
- Using the strap, gently pull your right leg straight up toward the sky.
- With both ends of the strap in your left hand, slowly move your right leg across your body toward the left, until it’s aligned with your left shoulder.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds while breathing deeply. Switch sides.
How to modify and progress the supine stretch
When you move your right leg toward the left across your body, you may feel too much of a stretch. Because the supine stretch is often used to relieve pain associated with ITBS, it can sometimes be too intense depending on the amount of pain someone is experiencing. You can modify the move by simply shortening the distance you move your leg across the body. Over time as your flexibility increases, you can begin to increase the distance you move the leg across the body. Remember that we are trying to feel a stretch along the strapped leg's IT band; not a pull in the low back.
- Modification: When you move your right leg toward the left across your body, move it just an inch or two, instead of pulling it all the way to the left shoulder.
- Progression: Straighten your left leg out in front of you. (Only straighten the left leg if it feels OK on your low back. You should not feel any pulling or pain in that region.) Then, when you move the right leg across the body, continue to guide it further so that your right foot reaches toward the floor on the left side of your body.
4 exercises that will help you perform the supine stretch better
The supine stretch can be intense for those experiencing pain associated with ITBS. However, there are plenty of other stretches that can help you increase mobility and perform the stretch better.
Supine hip flexor stretch
Begin lying on a couch, bed or any elevated surface with your left leg hanging off the side. Grab your right knee with both hands and bring it toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your thigh and hip.
Sitting on the ground, bend your knees out to the side and bring the soles of your feet together in front of you. Place your hands around your feet to hold them together. Straighten your back so that you are not hunched over, and begin to gently move your legs up and down.
Sitting forward bend
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, straighten your back and reach your arms out in front of you. Bend at the hips and fold forward, try to touch your fingertips to your toes or your palms to the floor beside your feet. Hold for 30 seconds.
Standing hamstring stretch with crossed feet
Stand up straight and cross your right foot over your left. Slowly bend at the hips and reach your arms toward the ground while keeping both knees straight. Try to align your forehead with your knees.