4 Essential IT Band Stretches

Relieve iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) pain with stretches you can do at home

After runningwalking, or hiking, the iliotibial band can become tight and inflamed. This results in a condition known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). It's uncomfortable and causes pain and can lead to muscular imbalance and poor movement patterns.

If you have ITBS, you may benefit from physical therapy to help treat your condition. Your physical therapist can assess your range of motion and strength and prescribe exercises like the stretches in this program to help treat your ITBS. Here is what you need to know about the condition.

What Is IT Band Syndrome?

The iliotibial band is a thick tendinous fascia that originates on the outside portion of the hip and extends to the side of the knee. Iliotibial band syndrome is characterized by pain along the side of the thigh and knee.

A tight iliotibial band causes friction over the hip and knee joints and causes inflammation of the fascia. Strengthening the hip and stretching are the first steps in treating iliotibial band syndrome.

Remember to check in with your doctor before starting this, or any other, exercise program for Iliotibial band syndrome.

1

The World's Greatest Ilitibial Band Stretch

Sidelying IT Band Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Want to get a great stretch of your Iliotibial band as it crosses your knee? Then this stretch is for you. Many physical therapists know about it, but not many patients use it. Here is how you do the side-lying iliotibial band stretch:

  1. Lie on your side with your affected knee on top.
  2. Bend your top knee and grab your ankle. You should feel a tightness in your quadriceps muscle with this.
  3. Pull back a bit, and then place your bottom foot on the side of your top knee.
  4. Pull the foot on your knee toward the floor gently, elongating the outer part of your top thigh.
  5. Feel a stretch in the side of your knee where the IT band crosses the knee.
  6. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, and then release.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Keep your body still during the stretch — no rocking backward. The more you can keep yourself in a neutral position, the better a stretch you will get.

2

Seated Hip and ITB Stretch

Seated Hip and ITB Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The seated hip rotation stretch is an excellent stretch for your ITB and your hip and piriformis. Here is how you do it:

  1. Sit with your legs extended out in front of you.
  2. Cross the involved (hurting) leg over your other leg, bending your knee, and placing your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Rotate your body to look over the shoulder on the involved side until you feel a stretch.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat four more times.
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The Standing ITB Stretch

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Watch Now: How to Do a Standing IT Band Stretch

The standing ITB stretch is good because you can do it anywhere — at home, the office, or the gym before working out. You can lean on a wall for balance if it is easier. Here is how you do it:

  1. Stand upright.
  2. Cross the involved (hurting) leg BEHIND the opposite leg.
  3. Lean to the uninvolved side (away from the sore side) until you feel a stretch across the affected iliotibial band.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Uncross your legs and stand up straight again.
  6. Repeat four more times.

Some people feel a stretch in the area of their hip where the ITB arises, while others feel a tightness at their knee during this stretch.

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Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch

Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Here is a relaxing stretch to round out your ITB stretching routine:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend the knee of the involved (hurting) leg.
  3. Grasp behind the bent leg's knee with both hands and pull the involved leg toward the opposite shoulder.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Relax your leg.
  6. Repeat four more times.

Stretching your ITB and the muscles around it may be just one component of your rehab program for iliotibial band friction syndrome. For example, stretching the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) and gluteus maximus may provide relief.

Both the TFL and gluteus maximus attach to the IT band. When these muscles improve flexibility, tension is reduced on the IT band.

Many people with ITBS also benefit from strengthening the glutes, strengthening their hip muscles, and working to improve balance and running mechanics. Your PT can help you determine the best overall program for your ITBS and can help you get back to your normal activity level quickly and safely.

A Word From Verywell

IT band syndrome is painful and should be addressed to prevent muscular imbalance and increasing dysfunction. While it is best to have any unusual pain checked out by a professional such as a physical therapist, you can also try some stretches at home. Don't push into pain or do anything that causes pain to increase.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McKay J, Maffulli N, Aicale R, Taunton J. Iliotibial band syndrome rehabilitation in female runners: a pilot randomized study. J Orthop Surg Res. 2020;15(1):188. doi:10.1186/s13018-020-01713-7

  2. National Academy of Sports Medicine. IT band syndrome exercises: reduce risk factors and symptoms.

  3. Allen DJ. Treatment of distal iliotibial band syndrome in a long distance runner with gait re-training emphasizing step rate manipulationInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2014;9(2):222–231.

By Laura Inverarity, DO
Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.