The iliotibial (IT) band is a thick band of fascia that runs deep along the outside of your hip and extends to your outer knee and shinbone.

IT band syndrome, also referred to as ITB syndrome, occurs from overuse and repetitive movements, which can lead to pain, irritation, and inflammation in your knee and surrounding tendons.

While ITB syndrome is often referred to as runner’s knee, it also commonly affects weightlifters, hikers, and cyclists.

Certain exercises and stretches can help heal ITB syndrome by improving flexibility and strengthening the muscles surrounding your IT band. These exercises can also prevent further issues.

Here are five IT band exercises to get you started. Try doing these for a minimum of 10 minutes per day.

This exercise targets your core, glutes, and hip abductors, which helps improve stability. For more support, bend your bottom leg. For a challenge, use a resistance band around your ankles.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your right side with your left hip directly over your right.
  2. Keep your body in a straight line, pressing your left hand into the floor for support.
  3. Use your right arm or a pillow to support your head.
  4. Position your foot so your heel is slightly higher than your toes.
  5. Slowly raise your left leg.
  6. Pause here for 2 to 5 seconds.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position.

Do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions on each side.

The forward fold stretch helps relieve tension and tightness along your IT band. You’ll feel a stretch along the muscles on the side of your thigh as you do it. To stretch more deeply, place all of your weight onto your back foot.

Use a block or prop under your hands if they don’t reach the floor, or if you have any low back pain. If you have concerns with blood coming to your head, keep your back flat and your head raised.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Cross your left foot over your right, aligning your pinkie toes as much as possible.
  3. Inhale and extend your arms overhead.
  4. Exhale as you hinge forward from your hips, and lengthen your spine to come into a forward bend.
  5. Reach your hands toward the floor, and elongate the back of your neck.
  6. Keep your knees slightly bent.

Hold this position for up to 1 minute, then do the opposite side.

This yoga pose relieves deep tightness in your glutes, hips, and thighs, improving flexibility and mobility. It also stretches your knees and ankles.

Avoid sinking over to one side. Use a cushion to evenly ground both sitting bones into the floor so your hips are even. To make this pose easier, extend your bottom leg out straight.

How to do it:

  1. Bend your left knee and position it at the center of your body.
  2. Draw in your left foot toward your hip.
  3. Cross your right knee over the left, stacking your knees.
  4. Place your right heel and ankle to the outside of your left hip.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  6. To go deeper, walk your hands forward to fold into a forward bend.

Hold this position for up to 1 minute, then do the opposite side.

This stretch relieves tightness in your spine, hips, and outer thighs. It opens your shoulders and chest, allowing for improved posture and stability.

For a more gentle stretch, extend your lower leg out straight. Place a cushion under this knee if your hamstrings are especially tight.

How to do it:

  1. From a seated position on the floor, bend your left leg and place your left foot on the outside of your right hip.
  2. Bend your right leg and place your right foot flat on the floor on the outside of your left thigh.
  3. Exhale as you twist your lower body to the right.
  4. Place your left fingertips on the floor, bending your hips.
  5. Wrap your elbow around your knee, or place your elbow to the outside of your knee with your palm facing forward.
  6. Gaze over your back shoulder.

Hold this position for up to 1 minute, then do the opposite side.

This exercise requires you to have a foam roller. Use it to roll out tension, muscle knots, and tightness around your IT band.

Focus on any areas where you’re experiencing tightness or irritation. Go slowly over these areas.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your right side with your upper thigh resting on the foam roller.
  2. Keep your right leg straight and press the sole of your left foot into the floor for support.
  3. Place both hands on the floor for stability, or prop yourself up on your right side.
  4. Foam roll down to your knee before rolling back up to your hip.

Continue for up to 5 minutes, then do the opposite side.

There are several complementary therapies you can use to treat ITB syndrome. Decide which ones are most useful to your routine and incorporate them into your exercise program. Here are some to consider:

  • Sports or deep tissue massage. A professional massage tailored to prevent and recover from injury can improve flexibility, ease muscle tension, and reduce muscle spasms.
  • Myofascial release. This type of physical therapy uses massage to relieve pain, tension, and tightness in your myofascial tissues.
  • Acupuncture. This treatment may help relieve pain and discomfort as you heal from an IT band injury.
  • Hot and cold therapy. These simple treatments can help alleviate pain and inflammation, though they may not completely heal the cause of your discomfort. Use a heating pad, or take a hot bath or shower, to warm up and relax your muscles. Use an ice pack to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Alternate between methods every 15 minutes, or do one at a time.
  • NSAIDs. To relieve pain and inflammation, take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Only use these drugs on a short-term basis.
  • Healthy choices. Follow a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water and indulging in healthy drink options, such as coconut water, vegetable juice, and herbal teas. As long as they don’t interfere with any of your medications, take herbal supplements that can reduce pain and inflammation.

ITB syndrome can take 4 to 8 weeks to completely heal. During this time, focus on healing your entire body. Avoid any other activities that cause pain or discomfort to this area of your body.

Should I stop running if I have ITB syndrome?

It’s important to take a break from running to prevent ITB syndrome from becoming chronic. You don’t need to stop running forever, but you must allow your body to recover before restarting your running routine. This is especially important if any of your symptoms are severe or recurring.

You can stay active with low impact activities, such as swimming, elliptical training, or restorative yoga.

ITB syndrome is a common condition, especially among runners, cyclists, and hikers. Slow down and take as much time off as you need to make a full recovery.

These five IT band exercises can help heal an existing injury or prevent new issues from arising.

Continue to do these exercises even after you’ve healed. It may take a few weeks or months before you see results.