Runners know all too well that any sort of sharp pain — whether it’s in the shins, knees, or ankles — can put a sudden end to training days.

One of the most common running injuries is iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome, which occurs when the IT band becomes inflamed. The result: a sharp pain that radiates outside your knee and can stop you in your tracks.

So, where is your IT band exactly? This thick, fibrous band of connective tissue runs down the outside of your thigh, originating from your gluteal muscles and tensor fascia latae (TFL) and ultimately connecting just below your knee to your tibia.

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) affects both seasoned and beginner runners, and if not managed correctly, it can become an ongoing and chronic injury.

Best Exercises for Your IT BandShare on Pinterest
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Because your IT band is so intricately connected to your gluteal muscles, when your glutes are weak or tired, the result is often decreased knee stability, meaning your knee can be pulled either inward or outward excessively.

A weak butt is simply a side effect of our modern lifestyle: too much sitting and not enough strength training. On the other hand, fatigue can be caused by overtraining (increasing your mileage too quickly or running too fast before you’re ready).

The good news? When it comes to ITBS, prevention is definitely the best medicine. Research has shown that strengthening your hips and glutes is one of the most effective ways to prevent ITBS. But if you’re already injured, don’t panic. There’s still plenty you can do to help treat your injury and prevent it from recurring.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of ITBS, the first thing you need to do is stop running — completely — for 7 to 14 days.

But just because you’re not running doesn’t mean you should be sitting on the couch. As with most running injuries, once you get your doc’s all-clear, recovery from ITBS requires some active work. These exercises are specifically designed to treat ITBS and get you back in your running shoes.

Once your doctor approves, perform these moves every other day while injured, and use the alternating days for core work or other strength exercises that don’t aggravate the area.

This routine can help heal your IT band injury within a week or so if it’s a minor case. (If the pain persists, find a doctor who specializes in running injuries.)

For the workout:

  • You’ll need a piece of rubber tubing, also called a therapy band or resistance band, for extra resistance. (Start with low or medium resistance and move to a stronger resistance when it becomes too easy.)
  • Modify the number of reps or take extra time between exercises if necessary.
  • If you don’t currently have ITBS, you can do this routine once a week for prevention.

1. Lateral leg raise

How to do this exercise:

Lie on your right side with a therapy band around your ankles. Lift left leg to about 45 degrees in a controlled manner, then lower. Do 30 reps per side. Make sure your toes are pointed forward rather than up toward the ceiling.

2. Clamshell

How to do this exercise:

Lie on your right side with your knees together and a therapy band around your lower thighs. Your thighs should be about 45 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Open knees like a clamshell while keeping heels together and without moving your pelvis — keep it slow and controlled. Do 30 reps per side.

3. Hip thrust

How to do this exercise:

Lie faceup with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Using your glutes, lift your hips, then lower. Do 30 reps.

4. Side step/shuffle

How to do this exercise:

Place a therapy band around your ankles (the band should be tight enough to provide constant resistance). With knees slightly bent, take 10 steps to one side. Still facing the same direction, take 10 steps back to the starting position. That’s 1 set. Do 5 sets of 10 steps in each direction.

5. Pistol squat

How to do this exercise:

Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Lift right foot off the floor and extend it forward. Lower into a squat position, sending hips back as if sitting back into an imaginary chair with knees safely positioned over feet. Return to the starting position. Do 10 reps per side.

6. Hip hike

How to do this exercise:

Stand on your right foot. With your pelvis in a neutral position, drop the left side of your pelvic bone so it is several inches below the right side. Activate your right hip muscle to lift your left side back to the starting position. Do 20 reps per side.

7. Iron cross stretch

How to do this exercise:

Lie faceup with your arms out to your sides. Lift right leg straight up toward the ceiling, and then slowly rotate your lower back and hips to reach your leg across the left side of your body toward the opposite hand, focusing on keeping your leg as straight as you can.

Hold the position for as long as you want, and then return your leg to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do 10 reps per side.

Foam roll — gently

A foam roller can help the healing process, but avoid rolling your IT band itself, as this may aggravate it further. Instead, gently roll your hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings for about 1 minute per muscle to loosen the muscles and any scar tissue that may be constricting movement.

Ice it

Ice may provide some pain relief, especially in the initial stages of your injury. Try icing any painful areas after performing the routine for about 15 minutes.

Try a test run

If you haven’t felt pain in 7 to 14 days, then it’s time for a short, easy test run. Use a treadmill or stick to a flat, even surface (downhill running makes ITBS pain worse because it makes the supporting musculature that caused the injury in the first place work overtime).

This article was written by USATF-certified running coach Jason Fitzgerald, a 2:39 marathoner and head coach of Strength Running.