You might not be familiar with your IT (or illiotibial) band - the thick cord of connective tissue that runs down the outside of your thighs from your hip to your knee. Your IT band does an important job of stabilising the hips and knees, especially during high-impact exercises like running or jumping. And if it gets tight and irritated, you'll know it very quickly.

That tightness can lead IT band syndrome (ITBS), a condition when you might feel pain along the outside of your thighs, your hips, or your knees. In fact, if you've ever experienced knee pain, there's a chance it's a tight IT band - and not an issue with your knee itself. You'll often feel aches during lateral movements or when you're putting more weight on the affected leg, during running, or other high-impact activities. For that reason, ITBS is common among runners, cyclists, and people who walk for long distances.

How to stretch your IT band

To ease the aches, people often do stretches, where they lean side to side to get the band to loosen. But it turns out, these common stretches don’t do much at all.

“Studies of the structure of the IT band suggests that it's highly unlikely it can be stretched because it’s too strong,” says running coach Jeff Gaudette. Along the same lines, foam rolling the area won’t offer much relief either, he adds.

“Those typical stretches might feel good, but they don’t do much because they’re not curing the problem-you’re not getting to why you have IT band pain in the first place,” says physical therapist Brian Gurney. A better strategy for easing the pressure on your IT band: stretching the muscles around it. “People usually come in with IT band syndrome when they lack hip extension, and when you lose that hip extension, it’s a chain reaction of events that happen,” Gurney explains. “It’s harder for your glutes to engage. You start to push more weight to the outside of your leg to compensate. The IT band and calves get tight, and your whole leg mechanics change.”

To target the right muscles that will help fix your mobility and movement patterns, and relieve your IT band pain, give these stretches a go. Hold each one for at least 10 seconds.

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