Iliotibial band stretches are a great way to reduce knee, hip and back pain and the symptoms of iliotibial band syndrome.
Here, we share our 6 favourite ITB band stretches, with easy to follow instructions and images to help you beat ITB pain.
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, particularly in runners.
It can lead to patella maltracking, where the kneecap doesn’t glide properly as the knee moves which can lead to a whole range of knee and kneecap problems.
Tightness in the ITB can also irritate the hip and knee bursa, small fluid filled sacs that provide cushioning between the Iliotibial Band and the bones underneath, causing inflammation and pain.
The most common knee problems that iliotibial band stretches are particularly useful for are:
ITB tightness can contribute to a number of different knee problems so iliotibial band stretches are often an important part of rehab, particularly for runners.
Stretching the ITB is slightly different from stretching other muscles, as the ITB is a thick, fibrous band rather than an elastic muscle.
Here you will find six different iliotibial band stretches to choose from but you only need to do one or two – choose the ones that work best for you. To be most effective, hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
The description/pictures show you how to stretch your right ITB but can easily be reversed to stretch the left side. Let's start with some of our favourite standing iliotibial band stretches.
Standing iliotibial band stretches can be done almost anywhere making them particularly useful and a great place to start.
This is my favourite of all the iliotibial band stretches. It's really easy to do and is very effective.
Progression: Place your hands on your head whilst doing this to increase the stretch
Top Tip: People often find that they feel more balanced and in control with IT band stretches when they use the wall for balance
Some people prefer to do iliotibial band stretches lying down as they feel more stable, so here are three to choose from.
Progression: You can increase the intensity of iliobtibial band stretches by using a foam roller. Lie as shown with the roller underneath the area of pain (at a right angle to your body) and as you hold this stretch, gently roll backwards and forwards on the roller.
Progression: Increase this iliotibial band stretch by turning your foot inwards as you do the exercise
Top Tip: Keep your hips flat on the bed/table rather than letting them twist up
Foam rollers are a really great tool for iliotibial band stretches. The pressure through them really targets the tough ITB and helps to stretch it out - it's like giving yourself a sports massage!
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.
Progression: Increase the stretch through your iliotibial band by turning your foot inwards as you do the exercise
Top Tip: Get someone to put gently pressure through your hips to keep them still
Iliotibial band tightness is an extremely common cause of:
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 so it is important to be stretching out any other areas of tightness too:
Combining stretching and strengthening exercises will help to make sure you are getting maximum benefit from these iliotibial band stretches for your knee.
Page Last Updated: 09/08/22
Next Review Due: 09/08/24
1. Scandanavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports: Iliotibial band syndrome: an examination of the evidence behind a number of treatment options. Falvey E, Clark R, Franklyn-Miller A, Bryant A, Briggs C, McCrory P. August 2010
2. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: Quantitative analysis of the relative effectiveness of 3 iliotibial band stretches. Fredericson M, White J, Macmahon J, Andriacchi T. May 2002
3. Journal of Sports Medicine: A Review of Treatments for Iliotibial Band Syndrome in the Athletic Population. Beals C, Flanigan D. October 2013