Iliotibial Band Stretches

Iliotibial band stretches can make a big difference to back, hip and knee problems.

The Iliotibial Band (ITB) is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of your leg from your pelvis to your knee. Some of the buttock and hip muscles attach to it and the ITB co-ordinates how these muscles work and stabilises the knee.

Tightness of the ITB can make subtle changes to the way the knee moves resulting in knee pain. It can lead to patella maltracking, where the kneecap doesn’t glide properly, which is common in conditions such as Runners Knee and Chondromalacia Patella. It can also irritate the bursa, small fluid filled sacs that provide cushioning between the Iliotibial Band and the bones underneath, causing inflammation and pain. The most common sites for this are at:

1) The Knee: Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Common in long distance runners. Causes pain on the outer side of the knee and thigh.

2) The Hip: Trochanteric Bursitis. Causing pain and acute tenderness on the outer side of the hip

The Iliotibial Badn runs down the outer side of the thigh

Stretching the ITB is slightly different from stretching other muscles, as the ITB is a thick, fibrous band rather than an elastic muscle. Here we will show you how to build up your Iliotibial Band stretches to help relieve hip and knee pain. If you haven't already, visit the knee stretches intro page for information on how to get the best results from iliotibial band stretches.

Here you will find five different Iliotibial band stretches to choose from. With each one, the description/pictures show you how to stretch your right ITB. To stretch the left side, just reverse the instructions. You only need to do one or two of these stretches – choose the iliotibial band stretches that work best for you. To be most effective you need hold each of these Iliotibial band stretches for 30 seconds and repeat them 3 times.

Standing ITB Stretches

1) Basic ITB Stretch

Iliotibial band stretches.  Approved use

Intro: This is my favourite of all the iliotibial band stretches

Starting Position: Stand upright and cross your right leg behind your left.

Action: Lean slightly forwards and to your left side until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg. Lean on a chair/wall if needed. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, or before and after exercise

Progression: Place your hands on your head whilst doing this to increase the stretch

2) Wall ITB Stretch

Wall stretch for ITB.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Start as with the first exercise but cross your right leg further over behind you to the left. Place your hands on your head or lean on a wall for support ensuring your hands are above your head as this increases the stretch.

Action: Lean to the left whilst gently gliding your hips to the right until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 secs.

Repetition: Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, or before and after exercise

Notes: People often find that they feel more balanced and in control by using the wall for balance

ITB Stretches Lying Down

1) Side Lying ITB Stretch

Stretching the ITB by lying on your side.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Lie on your left side at the edge of a bed/table with your bottom knee bent

Action: Move your top (right) leg backwards so it hangs down over the edge of the bed. Gradually try and let the right leg drop down more to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3x, 2x daily

2) Belt ITB Stretch

Starting Position: Lie on your back with a belt looped around your right foot

Belt Stretch for ITB tightness.  Approved use by

Action: Bring your right leg straight up and across your body until you feel a stretch on your outer thigh. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3x, 2x daily

Progression:1) Increase the stretch by turning your foot inwards as you do the exercise

Tips: Keep your hips flat on the bed/table rather than letting them twist up

Assisted Iliotibial Band Stretches

If you find it hard to do Iliotibial band stretches effectively, getting someone to help can make a big difference. They may be able to help you stretch your ITB further than you can on your own.

1) Assisted ITB Stretch

Getting someone else to help can enable you to stretch your ITB further or more effectively.  Approved use by

Starting Position: Lie on your back with your legs straight.

Action: Assistant brings your right leg up and across your body until you feel a stretch on the outer side of your thigh. Hold for 30 secs

Repetition: Repeat 3x, 2x daily

Progression: Increase the stretch by turning your foot inwards as you do the exercise

Tips: Get someone to put gently pressure through your hips to keep them still

What Next?

ITB tightness is often accompanied by buttock tightness and weakness. Visit the glute stretches and knee strengthening exercises sections for more exercises that may help.

For top tips on getting the best out of iliotibial band stretches, including quick tests to tell if your muscles are tight and how to get the best results for the least effort, visit the knee stretches overview. Often, there will be tightness in more than one muscle – find the best stretches for tight quads, hamstring, calves and glutes muscles to make sure you are getting maximum benefit for your knee.

Go to Knee Exercise Guide or Homepage

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See Also

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Test your flexibility - would stretching help you?

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Common causes of knee pain

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