8 Exercises to Help IT Band Pain6 Comments
The IT band, or Illiotibial band, is connective tissue that runs along the lateral thigh from the hip to the outside of the tibia (shinbone), just below your knee. IT band pain occurs due to inflammation caused by friction between the IT band and thigh bone, often with repeated knee flexion and extension. This inflammation leads to pain on the outside of the knee, especially with repetitive use in running, walking, hiking and cycling.
Who Gets IT Band Pain?
Commonly, IT band pain occurs in runners and bikers due to the repetitive nature of the exercises. Typically, pain develops due to over training, weakness of the gluteus medius muscle or tightness of the hip flexors that cause abnormal stress on the IT band.1 Ramping up a running program too quickly or being too aggressive with mileage increase may lead to this injury. Additionally, this lateral knee pain can develop if you do not allow enough rest time between workouts or if you consistently skip stretching the lower body. Other risk factors include running on banked surfaces, running downhill, and running in worn out shoes.1
How To Resolve IT Band Pain
If you are experiencing IT band pain start with RICE—rest, ice, compression and elevation. After the pain calms down it is important to restore proper bio-mechanics with strengthening and stretching. Below are a few exercises that may support your recovery from IT band pain.
1. Foam Roll Your IT Band
Foam rolling can help increase tissue flexibility and increase blood flow to the area to aid in reducing inflammation.2
- Begin on your side with the foam roller just above your knee.
- Slowly move your body to roll the foam along the outside of your thigh toward your hip. This area can be sensitive, try to control how much pressure you apply by using your hands to offload weight.
2. Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel with one foot in front.
- Shift your hips forward to feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Try to keep you core engaged to maximize your stretch.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets daily.
Clamshells are a great way to activate the gluteus medius muscle, which is important for hip stability, especially with running.
- Start in side lying with your knees bent to about 90 degrees.
- Lift the top knee as high as you can without letting your body roll backward.
- Lower the knee and repeat. To increase the difficulty, you can add a resistance band around your thighs.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
4. Side Lying Hip Abduction
Another great way to strengthen the gluteus medius muscle.
- Begin lying on your side with your top leg extended in line with your body.
- Lift your top leg, being careful to avoid letting the leg drift forward.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
5. Figure-4 Bridge
- Begin lying on your back with your right knee bent and right foot flat on the floor.
- Cross your left ankle over your right knee to make a figure “4” with your legs.
- Squeeze your right gluteus (buttocks) muscles and lift your hips off the ground.
- Slowly lower your hips back to the ground.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
6. Glute Wall Press Isometric
In an isometric exercise, you activate a muscle and hold the contraction without moving your body. Wall sits and planks are common isometrics. This glute wall press isometric is a great way to isolate the gluteus medius muscles that stabilize your hips with walking, running and other activities.
- To begin, place a foam roller between the wall and your left thigh.
- With your left knee bent, push your left leg into the foam roller and hold for 5 seconds. You should feel your right side glute muscles working to stabilize. Complete for 2 sets of 10 repetitions holding for 5 seconds on each leg.
7. Lateral Band Walks
- Place a resistance band around your feet or ankles. (Band can also be placed just below your knees)
- Keeping your toes pointing forward, step sideways for about 10-15 steps.
- Repeat 3 times going to your left and 3 times going to your right.
8. Side Planks
- Begin lying on your right side.
- Lift your hips off the ground, balancing on your right elbow and right foot. Focus on keeping the core and glutes engaged.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on the right and left, daily.
If after trying these exercises you do not see improvement and your pain is persisting, call an Athletico near you to schedule a free assessment. Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Satio, Stephanie S. Orthopedic Rehabilitation Clinical Advisor, edited by Jacklyn Brechter, Mosby Inc, 2010, pp. 546–547.
2. Hotfiel , Thilo, et al. “Acute Effects of Lateral Thigh Foam Rolling on Arterial Tissue Perfusion Determined by Spectral Doppler a Power Doppler Ultrasound.” Journal of Strength and Condi-tioning Research, vol. 31, no. 4, Apr. 2017, pp. 893–900.