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Stretching & Strengthening Exercises for Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome, or runner's knee, is characterized by pain within the outside of your knee, near the iliotibial band's, or IT band's, attachment in the same area. Treatment involves stretching and strengthening exercises that target the IT band, along with other interventions that help alleviate discomfort and inflammation. Consult a physical therapist to determine which exercises are most appropriate for you.

Standing Leg-Crossover Stretch

The standing leg-crossover stretch targets the IT band and thus may help treat the symptoms associated with iliotibial band syndrome. Stand upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart, then cross your affected leg behind the other, placing your foot flat on the floor with your toes directed forward. Place the hand on the same side as your injured leg on your hip, then lean your torso in the same direction until you feel a gentle stretch through the outside of the involved leg. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds. Stretch the opposite leg as well, if desired, to promote muscular balance.

Seated Leg-Crossover Stretch

The seated leg-crossover stretch is an alternative to the standing variation. Try both to determine which is most effective for you. Sit upright with your legs extended forward and heels on the floor, then cross your painful leg over the other and position your foot flat on the floor just outside your knee. Place the hand on the same side on the floor behind your back, then pull your knee across your body with the opposite hand. Twist your torso toward your affected leg at the same time to deepen the stretch, then hold for at least 10 seconds.

One-Leg Balance Exercise

The IT band and other knee structures help stabilize your knee joint during weight-bearing activities, so balancing on one leg is an effective way to strengthen the area if you suffer from iliotibial band syndrome. Start by balancing on your affected leg while performing normal daily activities, such as brushing your teeth, combing your hair or preparing food. Progressively increase the time to three minutes or more. Hold and move a basketball or soccer ball in different directions, or repeatedly bounce a tennis ball off the floor or a wall while you're balancing to increase the difficulty.

Side Leg Lift

The side leg lift exercise targets the IT band along with the muscles that abduct your hip joint, or move your leg sideways, away from the midline of your body. Lie close to a wall on the side opposite your injured leg, resting on your bottom elbow. Flex your bottom knee and place your foot flat against the base of the wall and fully extend your top knee, placing the back of your leg flush against the wall. Slide your top leg up and down the wall repeatedly, keeping your toes angled downward. Wear an ankle weight for extra resistance if desired.

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About the Author

Matthew Schirm has worked in the sports-performance field since 1998. He has professional experience as a college baseball coach and weight-training instructor. He earned a Master of Science in human movement from A.T. Still University in 2009.

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