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Have hip and knee pain? These IT band stretches can help

The most common symptom of IT band syndrome is pain anywhere between the hip and knees.
Woman stretching
TODAY Illustration / Stephanie Mansour

If you've felt pain running along your outer thigh or the outside of your knee, your IT band may be to blame.

The iliotibial band, or IT band, runs along the outer thigh from the pelvis to the shinbone. IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that often occurs in runners. Consistent downhill running or running on a track for a long amount of time are major causes of IT band pain. Additionally, weak glutes may play a role in IT band syndrome, causing your body to rely too heavily on the thighs while running.

The most common symptom of IT band syndrome is pain anywhere along this region, between the hip and knees, that gets worse with physical activity. This occurs when the connective tissue rubs against the thighbone. You may also experience swelling in the leg. Luckily, there are ways you can stretch the IT band to relieve pain and release tension.

This stretching routine can help you combat pain associated with IT band syndrome. Remember to take each move slow, and stop if you’re experiencing a worsening of pain. These stretches are meant to help you relieve pain, not make it worse.

Forward fold with crossed legs

The forward fold with crossed legs helps you individually target the IT band on both legs. This stretch is great for IT band pain because it gives you the control to decide how far your reach in the stretch, targeting the area where you are feeling pain without straining your muscles too much. In a standing position, cross your right leg over your left. Slowly reach your hands down towards your left foot as far as you can. When you feel the stretch, hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Side lying IT band stretch

This stretch allows you to lie down, maximizing your comfort while relieving IT band pain. The side lying IT band stretch works the area between your hips and calves, making it the perfect move to incorporate into your stretching routine. To perform, lie down on your right side with your legs together. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, keeping your legs together. Keeping your top left knee bent, move it behind you, slowly lowering it down to the mat until you feel the stretch in your left leg. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Glute stretch

I’m a fan of the lying glute stretch because it gives you full control of how far you’d like to stretch each leg. Plus, you can increase the intensity of this move over time, pulling your leg closer to your body. Lying on your back, bend both knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right knee so that your left calf is perpendicular to your right thigh. Pull your leg closer to your chest until you feel a stretch in your outer hip and thigh. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Hamstring stretch

If the IT bands is sore it often means that the hamstrings are tight, too. The hamstring is the muscle in the back of the leg. To stretch the hamstrings, we’ll come into a forward fold. Sit down with your legs out in front of you. Flex your feet and hinge forward at your waist. Reach the arms toward your toes and hold for 30 seconds with the shoulders relaxed.