Iliotibial Band (ITB) Stretches

| July 27, 2013 | Reply

Stretching the iliotibial band (ITB) is very useful for people who are encountering knee and hip pain (medically known as Iliotibial Band Syndrome); this disorder can be caused by many reasons, such as overusing, bad running habits, mechanical imbalances or poor flexibility of the tissue or of other surrounding muscles, and it is usually described as pain felt on the outside part of the knee or lower thigh or near the hip, when making moves like getting up from a seated position or climbing/going down stairs, sometimes even when walking. Unfortunately, due to the fact that this band is not a muscle, the majority of people tend to underestimate the importance of stretching it. So, in this post, we are planning to have a more detailed look at this issue.

ilotibial tract

Ilotibial tract, side and front view

The Area

The iliotibial band is a dense band of fibrous tissue which starts from the pelvis, runs along the outer thigh and links to the tibia, beneath the knee joint. Its main function is, through acting cooperatively with the thigh muscles, to stabilize the knee during movement by flexing, abducting and rotating the hip. Due to its nature and purpose, and particularly due to forward and backward moves compared to the knee’s axis of rotation, the iliotibial band is susceptible to rubbing, eventually causing inflammation to the bursa (a tiny sac filled with fluid and positioned between the band and the bone, that provides shock absorption), which is commonly sensed as lateral knee pain. Click the photo for more information!

Iliotibial Stretching Exercises

Here is a bunch of some relatively simple static iliotibial band stretching exercises – don’t forget to carefully read our stretching guide before trying any of the stretches described below:

  • An active/static stretch: Stand upright next to a wall or near a stable piece of furniture to provide balance; now, cross your left leg positioning it in front of the right one at the ankle without bending any of your knees or curbing your back; then, with your left hand onto your hip, lean gently to the left side (towards the wall or the piece of equipment) until you feel a stretch on the outside of the right leg (photo 1); hold it for some seconds, switch sides and repeat.
  • Another great passive/static stretch is to lie down with your left side on  a small pillow that is placed under your back. Try not to bend your left knee. Bring your right foot over the left and feel a slight stretch on the outside of the right foot (photo 2). Hold it there, switch sides and repeat.
  • Another “lying-down” exercise (photo 3): sit on the floor without bending your knees. Lie your upper part and keep your balance with your left hand! Put your left foot over your right one and push it with your right ankle until you feel a slight stretch! Hold it there , switch sides and repeat!

Hold your static stretches for 20-30 seconds (in side leg lift, however, there is no use in holding it for more than 10-15 seconds), performing 3-4 sets for each leg; keep carrying out a stretching program of 2-3 of the above described exercises for at least 3 times a week.

As you progress, you can try some trickier stretches which usually require equipment (a foam roller, a ball -photo 4- or a band/stripe -photo 5-); however, most of those exercises usually call for extra familiarity, devotion and attention so as to render a decent result and not put your tissues into any danger. Additionally, you can apply passive versions of the active stretches and the opposite, dynamic variations of the aforementioned static stretches and so on! You should also try a PNF version of the 3rd stretch mentioned above!


Performing iliotibial band stretches on a regular basis can:

  • Fight tightness of the band
  • Effectively deal with knee pain, provide it band pain relief and hinder disorders such as the Runner’s Knee (soreness felt in the area around the kneecap) from emerging or getting worse
  • Prevent the bursa from being irritated
  • Generally alleviate from, or massively ease off, back, hip and knee problems

What To Consider

  • Always take into consideration our general stretching guide
  • Do not skip a mild warm-up
  • Practice your stretches with caution and controlled movements
  • Don’t forget to breathe naturally
  • Because of the particular nature of the iliotibial band, it is not so difficult to make mistakes in completing your stretches, ultimately getting to feel pain in other body areas like knees or hips; if that happens, stop and try again, with a greater degree of focus
  • Do seek for trainer’s advice so as to be aware of a potential underlying imbalance that will hinder your exercise routine or result in you being injured
Photos & Videos

Watch the photos and video below for a better understanding of the previously written:

ilotibial band stretch

Photo 1 – Active ITB Stretch

ilotibial band stretch

Photo 2 – Lying ITB Stretch

ilotibial band stretch

Photo 3 – Lying ITB Stretch

itb ball stretch

Photo 4 – Ball ITB Stretch

band itb stretch

Photo 5 – Band ITB Stretch

Our Opinion

Iliotibial band stretches can significantly deal with the tightness on that spot, effectively impede the iliotibial band band syndrome and help you broadly fortify your leg muscles, especially if combined with a series of other leg stretches (mainly hips, thighs and knees). So, visit your physio and put a ITB stretching program in your lifestyle; also, in case you are an endurance athlete (runner or cyclist) or your work-out routine involves repeated cutting movements (like rackets) or squatting exercises, you must not underestimate the usefulness of these stretches.



Category: Stretching specific Body Areas

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