Stretches for IT Band Pain & Stiffness

Ever wonder how to stretch an IT Band injury?

We hear it a lot, “how do I loosen my IT Band… how do I stop my IT Band from hurting… and how to foam roll the IT Band?” So if you're someone who experiences pain and stiffness in your IT Band… welcome to the club! In addition to IT Band stiffness, you might also have knee pain and hip pain - they often go together. 

We know it’s tempting to foam roll your IT Band, or go get a deep tissue massage, or find a way to stretch it out to alleviate some of the pain and stiffness. We get it. It’s a natural reaction and most health professionals will encourage you to do these things to help your IT Band.

At Bendable Body we know that if you have a stiff IT Band or you are wondering how to get rid of IT Band pain fast, you actually want to stretch muscles in your legs other than the IT Band that are at the root of your IT Band problems. 

What muscle group is at the root of IT Band Stiffness?

Believe it or not, the muscle group that has the biggest impact on your IT band stiffness is your adductors - or your inner thighs. In the above picture, two people are sitting with their legs crossed. If they have a stiff IT Band... they will feel it when they go to sit in this way. But what's really going on? The IT band is located on the outside of the thigh and the adductors are located on the inside of the thigh. In order to cross the legs in this way, which muscle group must shorten? The adductors! 

You may be thinking, "who cares which muscle group has to shorten... I just want to fix my IT band!" We get it. But the only way to do that with any long term affect is to know what the root cause is and target it.  

One of the biggest mistakes people make about flexibility is to think that flexibility happens when a muscle lengthens. That's simply not true and why traditional stretching not only doesn't work, but often injures you. Flexibility happens when a muscle shortens... it's right there in the word: 'Flex - ability' - the ability of a muscle to shorten or 'flex'. 

And so when we look at the photo of the people crossing their legs, we can clearly see that the muscle group that needs to shorten in order for this position to happen is the inner thigh - the adductors. Whenever there is pain or stiffness in an area of the body, the most sensible thing to do is identify what muscle group isn't shortening. While you may be feeling the symptom (pain and stiffness) in the IT Band, the source is the adductors because they are not sufficiently shortening. So if you want to alleviate your IT Band stiffness, or if you're wondering, 'how do I warm up my IT Band'... the answer is stretch your adductors using resistance. 

Stretches to avoid for IT Band pain

The most important thing to keep in mind is that stretching and strengthening your IT Band directly to solve IT Band pain won't work... and it might make it worse. You have target the muscles that are causing the pain and stiffness in the IT band. These are primarily the adductors and also the hip flexors.

You can do stretches (using resistance) for your IT Band... but it is best to only do them after you have stretched your adductors and hip flexors with resistance. When is the best time to stretch your IT band in isolation? It's actually when you are experiencing pain and stiffness in your inner thigh - your adductors. It seems counter intuitive but once you understand the role fascia is playing in your body and how it is impacting both your strength and flexibility, it makes a lot of sense. 

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Watch this video and learn the best stretches for IT Band Pain and Stiffness:

15 thoughts on “Stretches for IT Band Pain & Stiffness”

  1. Most of the stretches helps with back, hip and leg pain but due to the neuropathy in my feet (post surgery, not a diabetic), it increeases the numbness in my foot. Would it get better or continues to aggravate this issue? I feel like I am standing on gravel and makes it hard to keep my balance at times.
    Thank you.

  2. I’m recovering from a meniscal tear that I reinjured twice. I’ve tried so many things over the past 3 years to avoid surgery, but this has been, by far the most helpful. I look forward to learning more from you. Thank you!! Diane

  3. Hi Can I do this if I had an anterior hip replacement?

    Nora Zamora
    also, I did PT and I am like stiff my muscles need to relax and or I need flexibility any suggestions??

  4. I am pretty sure I have a groin injury. My adductor and inner thigh to the knee hurt. Will this exercise help that issue? Thank you.

  5. I like the detailed instructions in the tutorials! Like when you told us how to position the foot and to keep the pressure on the ball of the foot during the stretch. I have done this stretch in the past but I used to put pressure along the entire inside of my foot and had experienced uncomfortable cramping. I am looking forward to trying this stretch with the adjusted foot position and emphasis on the ball of the foot.
    Nancy Mendell

  6. I have been diagnosed with IT band syndrome and told to use a roller and it hurts! Should I still use the roller or just do your stretches?

  7. Getting down on my knees is not a good idea, so I sat crooked on the edge of my chair and I could feel the contraction. I rearranged my foot between reps to slightly change the pressure point against the floor and keep my big knuckle from “complaining”. I didn’t know what an IT band was, but I think now it is what has limited my standing to about eleven minutes at a time. I am very interested in how this will affect my liver health as I’ve learned that being overweight coincides with a fatty liver. As I write this I feel a difference in my breathing…fluid, deeper, more relaxed.

    1. I am so glad to hear that you got some relief! We have so many stretches – have you ever tried our live zoom classes? In terms of understanding the meridian associations – you should check out our blog post on that!

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