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Runners Are Hip, Especially When They Stretch

Posted on: 05/28/2002
Runners are taught to stretch muscles and warm up for a long run to avoid injuries. One of the stretches often included in the exercise program is for the iliotibial band (ITB). This is a thick band of tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh from hip to knee. Other muscles of the hip attach to this band.

When this band gets tight and rubs against other muscles or bone, it can cause ITB syndrome. The friction can lead to pain and severe burning along the outside of the knee. It is the most common cause of knee pain in long distance runners.

There are several ways to stretch the ITB in the standing position. In all three stretches, the leg to be stretched is crossed behind and the person leans away from the side to be stretched. In one stretch, the arms remain down at the side as the upper body bends to the side. In another stretch, the arms reach up overhead as the upper body bends to the side. A third stretch is with the upper body bent forward and the arms stretched across and down toward the floor.

Researchers in a high-tech laboratory measured the effects of all three stretches. Each stretch lengthened the ITB, but the second stretch worked the best. Teaching runners this simple standing stretch may help prevent the ITB syndrome.

Michael Fredericson, MD, et al. Quantitative Analysis of the Relative Effectiveness of 3 Iliotibial Band Stretches. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. May 2002. Vol. 83. No. 5. Pp. 589-592.

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