Stretching Exercises for IT Band Pain

Standing IT Band Stretch

IT Band Stretch
IT Band Stretch. Photo (c) E. Quinn

IT (iliotibial) band pain is a common cause of knee pain along the outside (lateral) knee and the lower thigh. IT band pain can be caused by many reasons, including a tight or overused IT band, tight or weak muscles, and both chronic and acute injuries. This stretching program may help reduce IT band pain.

How to Do the Standing IT Band Stretch

There are many different ways to stretch your IT band. Here is a simple stretch you can do while standing.

  • Stand with your right leg crossed in front of your left leg.
  • With your left arm extending overhead, reach to your right side as shown.
  • Put your right hand on your hip.
  • Push slightly on your right hip to move your hips to the left; you will feel a slight stretch along the left side of your torso.
  • Continue to stretch so you feel a complete stretch on the outer torso, hip, upper thigh and knee of your left leg.
  • Hold 20 to 30 seconds, then change sides.
  • For a deeper stretch, keep your feet farther apart, bend the knee of your forward foot and keep the back knee straight.

Use a Foam Roller for IT Band Pain

Foam roller for It band
Foam roller for It band. Getty

Using a foam roller is a great way to ease pain from soft tissue injury or to perform myofascial release. The foam roller not only stretches muscles and tendons, but it also breaks down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. This particular exercise uses the roller to target the IT band.

How to Use a Foam Roller for IT Band Pain

Using the foam roller on the IT band can be painful, but many people find it's one of the most useful stretches you will do with the foam roller.

  • Lie on the roller on your side, with the roller positioned just below the hip. Your top leg can be in line with the bottom leg if you want a lot of pressure. Or, bend it in front of you to unload some of your body weight and provide better balance.
  • Use your hands for support and roll from the hip down to your knee, pausing on any tight or sore spots. Repeat on your other side.

IT Band Pain - Advanced IT Band Stretch

Advanced IT Band Stretch
Advanced IT Band Stretch. Photo (c) Noe Montes / Getty Images

This is a more advanced stretch for the IT band and is also known as the Pigeon Pose in yoga. This position can stress the knee joint, so if you have any knee injuries or limitations in the knee joint, you may need to modify or avoid this stretch.

The benefit of doing the pigeon pose for IT band pain is that in addition to stretching the IT band directly, this position also stretches the glutes (butt muscles). In some cases, tight glutes may contribute to IT band pain, so it's helpful to target both areas.

How to Do the Advanced IT Band Stretch

  • Begin in a push up position on your hand and toes.
  • Slide your right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your knee so the outer ankle is touching the floor (see picture).
  • Slide your left leg back as far as comfortable.
  • Keep your hips square to the floor.
  • You should feel a deep stretch in your right hip and the outer thigh.
  • You can either stay up on your hands or fold forward and let your forearms rest on the floor in front of you or fully extend your arm in front of you.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply from your belly. Hold the stretch 30 to 60 seconds and release. Repeat on the other leg.

Seated IT Band Stretch

Seated IT Band Stretch
Seated IT Band Stretch. Photo (c) Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

Here is a simple IT band stretch you can do while sitting on the ground.

How to Do the Seated IT Band Stretch

  • While sitting on the ground, cross one leg over the other as shown.
  • Gently pull your bent knee towards your chest so the inside of the knee is near your torso.
  • Slowly twist your upper body and slide your upper arm over your bent knee as shown.
  • In this position, you will be able to apply gentle pressure to your thigh in order to feel a stretch across the outside of your hip and glutes (butt muscles).
  • Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds, relax and switch legs. Repeat 3-5 times per side.

Crossover Squat Stretch for IT Band Pain

Crossover Squat Stretch for IT Band Pain
Crossover Squat Stretch for IT Band Pain. Photo (c) Victor Decolongon / Getty Images

The crossover squat stretch for the IT band is a slightly advanced stretch that targets the IT band and the glutes. Here, soccer star David Beckham demonstrates the perfect technique to use while performing this stretch.

How to Do the Crossover Squat Stretch

  • Cross the left leg over the right leg in a fairly wide stance.
  • Slowly squat down, bending at the knees.
  • Keep your weight centered over the left leg and let your right heel come up slightly.
  • Bend slightly at the waist.
  • Lift your hands up and out in from of you, and lift your arms up.
  • You should feel a stretch along the IT band of your right leg near the hip and thigh.
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds, then relax and repeat on the other leg. Perform 3 times per side.
  • Hold on to a support in front of you if you become fatigued.
  • An alternate to holding this stretch is to use this stretch in a sideways walking motion as part of a warm-up and cool down routine.

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