Web Exclusive – Ask Amy

March 19, 2013

My IT bands seem to be constantly sore. I stretch them every day and it helps for a little while, but then they get sore again, even when I’m not dancing. Is there anything else I can do? —Nicole

Your IT (short for iliotibial) bands are thick, fibrous bands of tissue that run along the outside of the thigh and insert below the knee. Your pain may be a sign that you’re compensating due to tightness or weakness somewhere else, says Boyd Bender, physical therapist for Pacific Northwest Ballet. Even though you’re diligently stretching, you won’t find long-term relief unless you pinpoint and treat the true source of your problem.

IT band pain (usually felt around the outside of the knee) is often associated with tight hip muscles and limited turnout. “A tight IT band may get sore because it’s in constant battle with your hips’ external rotators,” says Bender. “Your rotators may be too weak to overcome the tightness, but they will keep trying.” A secondary cause might stem from a hypermobile back, which can also create tight or weak hip muscles. “Low back stability is key to the hip muscles’ efficiency and function,” Bender explains. But don’t try to diagnose yourself—seek treatment from a physical therapist, who will identify the root of your problem and help you strengthen the proper areas.