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What Are the Best IT Band Exercises to Relieve Hip and Knee Pain?

by Matt Weik

Your knee is an incredibly important joint in your body and is surrounded by tendons and connective tissue that help support the joint. The IT (iliotibial) 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 occurs from overuse and repetitive movements, leading to pain, irritation, and inflammation in your knee, surrounding tendons, and the IT band itself.

This band originates at the gluteus maximus, crosses the hip joint, and extends down the lateral thigh to insert the tibia (shin bone). The IT band stabilizes the knee and hip during movement and activities like running. Tightness and inflexibility in this band can cause various symptoms, including lateral knee pain, hip pain, and pain in the lateral aspect of the thigh.

The IT band is susceptible to tightness and injury because it’s long, crosses two joints (hip and knee), and is constantly under pressure from repetitive running mechanics.

IT Band Exercises to Alleviate Hip and Knee Pain

Below, you will find some great IT band exercises that can help relieve hip and knee pain due to IT band issues.

1. Glutes Stretch

The glute stretch increases flexibility in the hip flexors, which can cause knee pain when they are tight and not flexible enough to support the movement of the leg as it swings forward during running or walking. Improving flexibility in these muscles will help them move more easily, which can also help prevent knee pain. The glute stretch can also be effective in treating patellar tendonitis or “jumper’s knee.”

How to do it:
• To do the glute stretch, start by lying on your back.
• Bend one knee and place it flat on the ground.
• Bring the other leg up toward your chest and straighten it to support yourself on one arm and the bottom of your foot.
• Tighten your abdominal muscles and tuck your bottom (left) toes under.
• Push with your left foot to straighten out your right leg.
• Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat several times.

2. Forward Fold with Crossed Legs

The forward fold with crossed legs stretches your hamstrings and your hip flexors.

Tight hamstrings, hips, and back can cause pain in the knees. This exercise helps to stretch your hamstrings, releasing tension on the IT band, which runs from the hip down the outside of the leg and across the top of the knee. This can help prevent patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee).

How to do it:
• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
• Bend forward at the waist with a straight back and arms by your sides.
• Bend your knees slightly as you lower yourself towards the floor as far as you can without bending forwards from the waist.
• Keep your head in line with your spine, neck, and shoulders straight.
• Hold for a few seconds before returning to the standing position.
• Repeat for a total of 6-8 repetitions, alternating legs each time you do it.
• To make this exercise more challenging, hold a weight in front of you throughout the movement to work deep into your gluteal muscles.

3. Supine IT Band Stretch

The supine IT band stretch can be quite beneficial for those trying to get rid of hip and knee pain.

How to do it:
• Lie flat on your back with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee.
• Cross your extended leg over your bent leg and place your foot on the floor.
• Pull your bent knee towards your chest until you feel a stretch along your outside thigh area.
• Hold for around 20-30 seconds, and then switch legs and repeat.

4. Standing IT Band Stretch

The standing IT band stretch is a simple exercise that can be done anywhere and anytime. It is most effective when done after warming up.

How to do it:
• To perform this stretch, hold onto a sturdy object with one hand (such as a chair) for balance and use the other hand to pull the affected leg back behind you at a comfortable angle.
• You should feel this stretch in your hips and thighs, but not so much that it becomes painful.
• Hold this stretch for about 15-30 seconds, and then repeat on both sides several times.

5. Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a new trend in the world of physical therapy that’s been catching on lately. It’s a tool used to massage deep down in the muscles, which helps with muscle recovery and flexibility.

How to do it:
• First, find the right place to roll out where you have enough room around you on the floor to lay down.
• You have to find the trigger points, which are the knots in your muscles that are causing you pain.
• Roll back and forth over your muscles until you feel tightness or tenderness to find your trigger points.
• Once you roll on a trigger point, continue rolling it out in an effort to release the knot or loosen up the tightness you’re experiencing

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