How to Stretch When You Have IT Band Pain

woman doing seated IT band stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The iliotibial band (IT band) is a thick band of strong fibrous tissue beginning at the hip and running across the outer thigh, and attaching below the knee joint. The IT band helps provide stability for the knee, along with your thigh muscles.

IT band syndrome is common among runners and other athletes or those who are new to exercise. It can cause symptoms such as knee, thigh, and hip pain as well as burning sensations, and pain during and after activity.

IT band syndrome can be due to the IT band becoming irritated by rubbing along the bone while in a stretched position. Causes can vary from wearing non-supportive footwear to muscle tightness and improper warmups.

Using a Foam Roller for IT Band Pain

Using a foam roller is a great way to ease pain from soft tissue injury or to perform myofascial release. However, using the foam roller on the IT band can be painful. Yet, many people find it's one of the most useful stretches you will do with the foam roller. Here's how to use a 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.

Advanced IT Band Stretch

Advanced IT Band Stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. In some cases, tight glutes may contribute to IT band pain, so it is helpful to target both areas.

How to Do the Advanced IT Band Stretch

  • Begin in a push-up position on your hands 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.
  • 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.

Standing IT Band Stretch

Standing IT Band Stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

IT 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.
  • Reach to your right side as shown, with your left arm extending overhead,
  • 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 in the outer torso, hip, upper thigh and knee of your left leg.
  • Hold 20 to 30 seconds, then change sides.
  • Keep your feet farther apart, bend the knee of your forward foot and keep the back knee straight, for a deeper stretch.

Seated IT Band Stretch

Seated IT Band Stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Here is a simple IT band stretch you can do while sitting on the ground. Make sure you keep your back straight and do not allow it to round. Place your hand on a block if you need to. This stretch is also excellent for your spine and glutes.

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

Crossover Squat Stretch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The crossover squat stretch for the IT band is a slightly advanced stretch that targets the IT band and the glutes. This stretch will also challenge your balance. If you need to, hold on to a sturdy object to help you stay steady.

How to Do the Crossover Squat Stretch

  • Cross the left leg over the right leg in a fairly wide stance.
  • Squat down slowly, 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 onto a support in front of you if you become fatigued.

An alternative to holding this stretch is to use this stretch in a sideways walking motion as part of a warm-up and cool down routine.

A Word From Verywell

IT band syndrome is a painful condition that affects many runners and other athletes as well as those new to exercise. Taking steps to prevent IT band syndrome is wise.

But, if you are currently experiencing pain, reducing your symptoms is possible with some stretches and foam rolling. Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider about any pain you experience. They can help you determine a treatment plan that is right for you.

5 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. Cleveland Clinic. Iliotibial band syndrome.

  2. Cedars Sinai. Iliotibial band syndrome.

  3. Krause F, Wilke J, Niederer D, Vogt L, Banzer W. Acute effects of foam rolling on passive tissue stiffness and fascial sliding: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials. 2017;18(1):114. doi:10.1186/s13063-017-1866-y

  4. Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers. Keeping the front knee safe in pigeon.

  5. Cho HJ, Kwak DS. Anatomical consideration of the anterolateral ligament of the knee. Biomed Res Int. 2019;2019:5740473. doi:10.1155/2019/5740473

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.