Stretching: Here is how it can help
Stretching the IT band area is pretty difficult but very important. A tight IT band often contributes to the problem. IT band stretches are a bit awkward so plan to practice and repeat them over and over. Like all stretches, you will get better and be able to feel their effectiveness when you perfect them over time. All of these take some practice to become effective. Make sure to warm up first. Warm muscles stretch more effectively. Illustrations are below.
The IT band itself can’t really be stretched significantly as it is a fibrous connective tissue that is extremely strong and tough. So stretching is more targeted at the muscles in the lateral thigh that connect to the IT band. These muscles include the tensor fasciae latae and gluteus maximus muscles. The tensor fasciae latae tautens the iliotibial band and braces the knee.
Warm up your muscles before stretching. Avoid stretching immediately after waking up. Walk or begin any other activity that will warm up the leg muscles before stretching.
The first stretch I will call the standing IT band stretch. It is generally considered the most effective stretch for the IT band but it takes practice in order to become comfortable with it and make it effective. Do this stretch often during your runs. Take advantage of opportunities such as stops during runs like water breaks, waiting at stoplights, checking text messages, changing music playlist, etc. This stretch will pay off so practice it and get good at it. With time you will be able to lower yourself closer to the ground by bending your other leg a bit. The stretch is difficult because you have to support and balance your body weight. This makes it awkward and limits you to about 30 seconds with only one or two repetitions.
Avoid creating excessive tension on the IT band. This may occur if there is no hip rotation during the stretch. Current medical science has established that the IT band cannot be substantially elongated by stretching. Therefore pulling on the IT band may worsen the problem since the pulling may further irritate the connective tissue at the knee (tibia) as well as the hip (iliac bone of the pelvis). After some practice you will feel when you are pulling on the IT band and will likely be able to feel the pulling on the hip and knee. Rotate your hip outward to stretch the tensor fasciae latae. Rotate your hip inward to stretch the gluteus muscles (maximus, medius, and minimus).
A similar stretch to the standing IT band stretch is what I call the Modified Ober’s Test Stretch that is described in the section about how Iliotibial Band Syndrome diagnosed. I have found this much easier and more comfortable than the standing stretch. I simply lay on a bed and hang my leg off of the bed. I can stretch comfortably and as long as I want.
The rest of the stretches are helpful and focus on the muscles associated with the IT band. Additional stretches are encouraged as well.
Dr. Josh Axe demonstrates stretches for the IT band.