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How to Properly Stretch Your IT Band

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT October 12, 2020 0 Comments

Woman IT Band Stretch

Iliotibial band syndrome, or ITB syndrome, is notoriously known for causing knee and hip pain, particularly with runners and cyclists. Luckily, knowing how to stretch the IT band is one of the surest ways to restore normal leg function with daily activities. Learn more about stretching this important band of connective tissue below.

How to Stretch Your IT Band

When the IT band is tight, there are almost always some underlying issues with flexibility and strength in other major muscles of the lower leg. Start with these stretches for well-balanced stretching program to address other possible problem areas in the legs is a great option

To learn more about IT band stretches to avoid, see our full guide.

Hamstring stretch

Grab a stretch strap and lie on your back. Wrap the end of the loop around your foot and hold each end with your hands. Then, straighten the knee and lift your leg up toward your chest until you feel a strong stretch in the hamstring in the back of the thigh. Keep your neck relaxed and don’t force the stretch.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg.

Hip adductor stretch

Next, bring the leg up toward the chest with the knee straight again. The opposite knee will be bent with the foot flat on the floor for stability. Stop before you feel a stretch in the hamstring. This time, let the outside of the leg fall sideways toward the floor until you feel a stretch on the inside of the thigh. You can let the knee of your opposite leg fall toward the floor to provide some counterbalance. Focus on deep breaths and going deeper into the stretch as tolerated.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets total.

Hip rotation stretch

With the strap still around your foot, now bend the knee and bring the outside of your ankle to rest on your opposite knee. From here there are a variety of options. If you already feel a stretch in the side of the glutes, simply relax and breathe. Otherwise, you can pull the foot and shin toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the side of the hip. Lastly, you can put down the strap and lift your bottom leg/foot off the floor and grab behind your thigh to bring everything closer toward your chest. Choose what feels best for stretching your hips and IT band.

Hold for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets.

Butterfly Stretch

Now in sitting, bend your knees and touch the bottom of your feet together. The closer your heels are toward your butt the stronger the stretch will be on your inner thighs, adjust the position as needed. Then, keep your back flat as you bring your chest toward the floor over your feet. How far you can go will depend on your flexibility. You can use a stretch strap wrapped around both your feet for better leverage while stretching as well.

Hold for 60 seconds for 2-3 sets.

Prone Quad Stretch

Turn onto your stomach with the loop secured around your foot. Stay relaxed and slightly tighten your abs to prevent arching the low back. Then, bend the knee and pull on the strap as you bring the heel close to your butt. Stop when you feel a strong stretch in the front of the hip. To address more of the fibers that connect into the IT band, try gently internally rotating the hip by bringing your foot away from the body as long as it doesn’t irritate the knee joint.

Hold for 30 or more seconds for 2-3 sets.

Supine IT Band Stretch

Lay down on your back to get started. Grab a stretch strap and wrap the end around your foot. Make sure to keep the knee straight as you bring the entire leg up toward your chest. Stop before you feel a strong stretch in the back of the leg. Then, let your leg fall across the body. Stop when you feel a strong stretch in the side of your thigh along the IT band. Stay relaxed throughout the stretch.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets.

Standing IT band stretch

Stand sideways to a wall with the side you will be stretching facing the wall. Then bring the leg  closer to the wall behind the other leg so that they are crossing. Make sure most of your weight is in the leg further from the wall. Then, gently lean and shift your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the side of the hip. For a slightly deeper stretch, you can turn your back foot so that it is resting on the outside edge.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg.

Alternatively, you can also do this lying on the edge of your bed with your back facing the edge. Then, do that same move by dropping your top leg behind the bottom leg and letting it fall down toward the floor until a stretch is felt.

Side-lying Quad Stretch

Lie on your side with the leg you want to stretch on top. Keep your spine in good alignment as you bend the top knee and grab your ankle with your hand. Bring your heel toward your butt until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. Then, let your leg relax as much as possible down toward the bottom leg. This way you should feel a stretch in the side of the thigh too. Since the primary muscle attached to the IT band is the tensor fascia latae (TFL)- which is a hip flexor- this is a great stretch to address many affected muscle groups at once.

Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets.

Note: While you’re in this position, it is also a great time to grab a foam roller for addressing some of those tight spots in the IT band.

When and How Often Should I Stretch?

When dealing with a flare-up or new injury to the area, start by keeping a high frequency for stretching.  Make a goal of stretching at least once per day. The best times to stretch are right after waking up, after a shower, before a workout, and/or right before bed. As your symptoms start to improve, you will find you only need to do a few preventative stretches before exercise or as needed for stiffness. This will vary with each person.

These stretches are also great to combine with other effective treatment options like foam rolling or massage. If you’re not sure what frequency is right for you with stretching, consider signing up for physical therapy to get started on the right track.

Foam Rolling Your IT Band

Benefits of Stretching

There are many great benefits to keeping the IT band stretched and limber. These include:

Safe Iliotibial Band Stretches

With any rehab program, it’s always important to tune into your body as you try new moves. You should always modify or stop a stretch if it causes pain or aggravation of symptoms. With this in mind, having a good stretching program in place can help you feel better as quickly as possible and get back to your normal activities. If you ever notice a sudden change in symptoms make sure to address these issues with your medical provider or physical therapist as soon as possible. 

Sources:

https://www.medicinenet.com/iliotibial_band_syndrome/article.htm

https://www.physio-pedia.com/Iliotibial_Band_Syndrome

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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