Iliotibial band exercises can both stretch the tissue and strengthen muscles around the band of tissue on the outer side of the leg. Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome is a common problem for runners and other physically active persons, and is caused when the band rubs on the outer part of the knee, resulting in pain. There are two main IT band stretching exercises, one in the standing position and one sitting. Foam rolling the IT band, from the hip down to the knee, can also be effective at relaxing the tissue fibers and reducing pain from IT band syndrome. Side leg lifts and exercise band exercises are also useful for strengthening muscles attaching to the IT band.
In general, there are two different types of iliotibial band exercises that are commonly used to stretch the band. To perform the first one, a person stands with his or her injured leg behind the healthy one, before leaning forward and gently pushing the hip to the side. A stretch should be felt along the length of the IT band. Stretches should be held for a minimum of 20 seconds and should not cause pain.
To perform the second type of iliotibial band stretch, the person sits with legs out straight. The injured leg is crossed over the other, before being pulled towards the body. Again, the stretch should be felt on the outer part of the leg and hip.
Foam rolling can be an effective way of increasing the flexibility of the band. Unlike other iliotibial band exercises, foam rolling may be be painful, especially the first few times. To do the technique, a foam roller is placed on the floor, and the person lies on his or her side, with the IT band resting on the foam roller. The roller is the slowly rolled up and down the outside of the leg with moderate pressure.
Most iliotibial band exercises are used to promote flexibility, but some are used to strengthen the muscles surrounding the band. To perform a side leg lift, the person lies on his or her side before raising and lowering the outer leg in a controlled way. More exercises for the hip can be performed using an elastic exercise band attached to a door or other stationary object. With the band wrapped around the injured leg, for example, the leg should be taken through its entire range of motion with the knee bent. Before starting any exercise regimen, however, it is is good idea to check with a physician.