The illiotibial (IT) band is a dense strip of tissue that runs along the outside or lateral portion of the thigh. Many athletes may be familiar with the IT band, as tension in this structure is associated with illiotibial band syndrome, a common cause of pain in the outer portion of the knee.1,2 Decreasing tension through the IT band is believed to be a means of decreasing the risk of IT band syndrome and other hip and knee issues.
Decreasing Tension on the IT Band
The actual IT band probably cannot be effectively stretched, but resting tension put on this dense structure has the potential to be decreased.2 The muscles that put tension on the IT band include the tensor fascia latae and gluteus maximus. The tensor fascia latae is a muscle that is continuous with the IT band and lies on the outside of the hip. I believe this is where the focus of most IT band stretching should be felt. If structures of the hip such as the gluteus maximus and tensor fascia latae are more flexible, then the resting tension through the IT band should be diminished.
The following are two stretches that improve length of the IT band.3
The first stretch begins by extending the leg to be stretched and crossing it behind the supporting leg. The trunk is slowly bent away from the leg to be stretched until a mild/moderate pull or stretch is felt in the outer portion of the hip. You might also feel some tightness in the trunk.
The second stretch is performed the same way as the first, but with the arms held overhead. Both stretches are effective, bringing the arms overhead is more effective.3
Three sets of 30-second holds most days of the week should be beneficial for increasing flexibility.