- Tight IT Band? 3 Simple Exercises to Fix it Now
- What Causes Tightness?
- 6 Simple Moves for Knee Pain You Can Do Anywhere
- It is important not to overuse or abuse your knees. Cross-training, stretching, and strength training can all help knees stay pain-free.
- What Is the IT Band?
- The Anatomy of the IT Band
- Understanding IT Band Syndrome
- 4 Common Causes of IT Band Syndrome
- Ball Plow Practice for Your IT Band
- 3 Yoga Poses + Stretches for a Healthy IT Band
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend), variation
- Why We Foam Roll
- What is my IT Band?
- What to Foam Roll to Release IT Band
- Bonus Tip
- IT Band Stretches
- Foam Roller Exercises
- Iliotibial Tract
Tight IT Band? 3 Simple Exercises to Fix it Now
While it is more commonly known as “runner’s knee,” IT band friction syndrome does not spare cyclists. Symptoms include pain on the outside of the knee, tenderness and sometimes swelling.
If you’ve been riding for a while, chances are you’ve experienced it. Here, we take a look at what exactly IT band friction syndrome is, and more importantly, how to remedy the problem.
IT pain is typically associated with prolonged, repetitive activity. But more advanced cases may cause pain when simply walking or going up and down stairs. You may feel stiff or tight after periods of inactivity and especially after prolonged sitting.
MORE: 6 Reasons Cyclists Should Start Strength Training
The iliotibial band (ITB) is a tendinous and fascial band that originates on the iliac crest (hipbone). It also attaches to the gluteal muscles (your rump) and the tensor fascia latae (TFL). The TFL is the muscle on the outside of your hip that moves your leg outward.
As the ITB travels toward the knee, it narrows and attaches to the outside of the tibial plateau (the top of your lower leg bone) with fibers also extending over to the patella. The band often feels palpably tight and can almost be strummed with your fingers on the outside of the knee.
The syndrome occurs as the band slides across the lateral femoral epicondyle, a bony bump on the outside of the femur. As your knee flexes and extends repeatedly, the band can become inflamed. During a pedal stroke, the band crosses the epicondyle once on the down stroke and again as the knee flexes back to the top of the stroke.
If you consider a cyclist pedaling at a moderate cadence of 90 rpm, that would equate to 180 slides per minute. On a two-hour ride, the ITB will cross the knee 21,600 times!
MORE: 4 Ways to Relive Burning in Your Feet
What Causes Tightness?
Many factors can contribute to the problem. One is muscle imbalance, where some muscle groups are tight and others are weak or fatigued. The basic cycling position can feed these imbalances.
Tightness, or a loss in flexibility, can occur in the hip flexors, hip abductors and internal rotators. Correspondingly, it often helps to strengthen the hip extensors, abductors and external rotators.
Other things that can cause IT band syndrome are alignment and bike fit. Even with good saddle height and position, problems can arise from misalignment of your feet and ankles. People who tend to be bowlegged are often more at risk. However, a more common issue is the person who tends to be a pronator, or flat footed.
Cycling isn’t considered a closed kinetic chain activity. (Closed chain activities are weight-bearing exercises or activities where the foot is in contact with the ground.) However, in cycling there is a nearly constant downward force on the pedals. Although there isn’t the impact associated with running, there is still a tremendous amount of room for joint movement in the ankle, hind foot and mid foot.
As downward force is exerted on the pedal, the foot pronates, resulting in associated internal rotation and abduction of the hip and knee. This creates increased tension on the ITB and a higher degree of friction.
If foot and/or ankle misalignment is an issue, the problem can often be addressed with a good set of shoe inserts. In severe cases, custom orthotics may be necessary. It is also important to ensure proper cleat placement so the knee tracks properly over the foot and pedal.
MORE: 8 Core Exercises for Cyclists
6 Simple Moves for Knee Pain You Can Do Anywhere
1. Wall calf stretch
Calf muscles often get neglected during our stretching efforts. However, for those who run, do high-impact workouts, or spend a lot of time on their feet, calf stretches are essential, Williams says.
Calves can get extremely tight from impact and need to be stretched to relieve any pain that might travel up the knee.
Find a wall you can lean against. Facing the wall, flex your right foot and position your heel right where the floor meets the wall. Your toes should be elevated while your heel remains on the floor.
Keeping your heel on the floor and your leg as straight as possible, lean toward your front leg, holding the stretch at its deepest point. Lean in for 5 seconds at a time before releasing, working to deepen the stretch.
Repeat the same stretch with your left leg. Aim for 10–15 reps on each leg — or more, if you’re still experiencing tightness.
2. Calf smash with lacrosse ball
This move allows you to work out tension in your calf and your hamstring, Williams says.
Sit on the floor and pull your right foot close to your butt so your knee is bent. Wedge a lacrosse ball (or a yoga/massage ball) below your right knee, sandwiching it between your calf and hamstring.
Create a “compression force” by pulling your shin toward you, and then rotate your foot in alternating circular movements to help create space in your knee joint. Continue until you feel tightness in these areas being relieved, and then switch legs.
3. Half-kneel hip and quad stretch
This stretch not only feels amazing but also does double-duty for your hip and quad muscles, Williams explains.
Kneel on one knee with your other foot planted on the floor in front of you. Create a 90-degree angle with both of your legs. Lean forward toward your front leg, stretching the front of your hip downward.
Next, grab the ankle of your back leg and pull it toward your butt for a deep hamstring and hip stretch down the front of your leg, all the way to your knee. Move in and out of this stretch for 10–15 reps or more, depending on your level of tightness.
Pro tip: Put a folded towel or mat between your knee and the floor.
4. Quad foam roller stretch
Stretching your quads is vital, since our quads get adaptively short from all the sitting most of us do every day. They’re often under constant tension. To get this large muscle group back to functioning at its best, Williams suggests using a foam roller.
Lie facedown. Place a foam roller under your right leg, right under your quad. Put the majority of your body weight on your leg and roll slowly. Instead of simply rolling up and down, roll your leg from side to side too, focusing pressure on the tighter spots in your muscles.
Switch legs. Continue rolling until this feeling is no longer painful. If that’s impossible (as it might be for some runners), do it for at least 5 minutes.
5. Wall hamstring stretch
Your hamstring muscles affect your knee more than you might think and can be the source of discomfort or pain.
Lie faceup with your left leg flat on the floor, foot flexed. Take your right leg and prop it straight up on a wall or table, or use a resistance band.
This stretch should radiate down the back of your leg, beginning in your knee. Once you find the deepest point of the stretch, alternate in 5-second sequences between contracting and relaxing your right foot.
If you have greater flexibility, hold your right ankle and pull it toward you. Aim for 10–15 rounds of 5-second holds and continue if you still feel tight. Repeat with your left leg.
6. Straight-leg raise
Easy strengthening exercises, like leg raises, put little to no strain on your knee but also activate and strengthen your quadriceps.
Lie faceup with one knee bent and the other leg on the floor in front of you. Lift your straight leg approximately 1 foot, rotating it outward (so your toes point on a diagonal instead of straight up toward the ceiling).
Do 3 sets of 10–15 reps, alternating legs. As you get stronger, add ankle weights of up to 10 pounds.
It is important not to overuse or abuse your knees. Cross-training, stretching, and strength training can all help knees stay pain-free.
If you are experiencing knee pain, try these exercises to help relieve your pain. Remember to always see a doctor if you experience knee pain that is
not relieved by several days of rest, ice, massage, and elevation.
Hamstring stretch: Standing, put one foot in front of you, toes up. With hands on the small of your back (or one hand holding a chair for balance), bend the opposite knee and hip (not your lower back), until you feel the hamstrings stretch. The upper body comes forward at the hip. Hold for 5 -10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Lying Hamstring Stretch: Lie flat on your back. Bend the knee on the leg to be stretched and hold the back of your thigh with one hand and the back of your calf with the other. Use your hands to pull the leg towards you keeping the knee bent about 20° until you feel a strong stretch in the middle of your thigh (at the back). Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times, 2x daily, or before and after exercise. Tip: If you can’t reach your leg to pull it, hook a towel around your leg and pull that instead to achieve a good hamstring stretch.
Knee flexion: Sitting in a chair, loop a long towel under your foot (resting on the floor). Gently pull on the towel with both hands to bend the knee, raising your foot 4 – 5 inches off the floor. Hold for 5 – 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
Straight Leg Lift: Begin lying on back with right leg straight and extended; left knee is bent, with left foot flat on floor. Contract right thigh muscles to straighten (but not lock) the knee. Slowly raise leg until knees are parallel, then lower. Repeat 8 to 12 times, working up to 2 sets on each side.
Knee-to-Chest Stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring one knee into your hands and gently let your arms pull your knee toward your chest. Hold, then lower your bent leg. Repeat with other leg.
The IT band is a multipurpose tendon that runs down the length of the outer thigh, from the top of the pelvis (ilium) to the shin bone (tibia).
The iliotibial (IT) band may not be top of mind for most yogis. After all, the thick fascial tissue (similar to a tendon) isn’t typically aggravated by yoga alone. But if you love jump backs, or if you practice yoga to help balance a fitness regimen filled with high-impact or explosive activities (think running, hiking, dancing, or high-intensity interval training) you likely have an embodied sense of this fibrous structure, and you might say it feels “tight.” And you’re right: The tendinous fibers of the IT band have a firmness that serve as a natural protector of your outer thigh. Yet before you use yoga to help “stretch” or heal your IT band, it’s important to know the basics about how this tissue can become irritated and what to do to help it feel better.
Before you use yoga to help “stretch” or heal your IT band, it’s important to know the basics about how this tissue can become irritated and what to do to help it feel better.
What Is the IT Band?
Also known as the iliotibial tract, the IT band is a multipurpose tendon that runs down the length of the outer thigh, from the top of the pelvis (ilium) to the shin bone (tibia). It connects the tensor fasciae latae muscle (a hip flexor) and gluteus maximus (the largest butt muscle, a hip extensor, and external rotator) to the outside of the tibia. The IT band is responsible for keeping your hips and knees stable, particularly during rapid, explosive moves like running and jumping. Think of the thick fascia of the IT band like a well-tensioned bridge that links the pelvis and knee. That fascia also envelops your quadriceps muscles and tapers into the knee joint capsule. When the two muscles that attach at the top section of the IT band—the tensor fasciae latae and gluteus maximus—contract, it adds tension to the IT band, which helps to stabilize your knee-to-hip relationship. But too much use (or underuse) from one of these muscles can overstress your IT band and tug on your outer knee, leading to pain.
See also What You Need to Know About Fascia
The Anatomy of the IT Band
This is the uppermost and largest part of the hip bone; it’s a wide, flat bone that provides many attachment points for muscles of the hip and trunk.
Tensor Fasciae Latae
This small muscle lies in front of the hip joint and is one of the connection points for the IT band.
This thick, fascial tissue serves as the tendinous insertion for the gluteus maximus and tensor fascia latae. It is the outer border of the vastus lateralis (outer quadriceps) muscle and acts as a fascial envelope for the quadriceps group.
Also known as the shinbone, it is the larger and stronger of the two bones below the knee.
The largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles, this is the main extensor muscle of the hip and the other connection point for the IT band.
If you experience pain on the outside of your knee in Warrior II pose, it may be a sign that you’re dealing with IT Band Syndrome.
Understanding IT Band Syndrome
If you feel pain on the outside of your knee, particularly when bending it, this may be a sign that you’re dealing with IT Band Syndrome. For example, pain may occur when you walk up or down stairs or move into yoga poses that require a deep bend in one knee, such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II). The source? IT band tension caused by imbalances in your tensor fasciae latae or gluteus maximus muscles—the two hip-based connection points for your IT band. When these muscles pull on your IT band, which connects into your knee’s joint capsule and the outside of your shin bone, it can lead to pain in your outer knee.
The good news? IT band issues are usually not very serious and respond well to strengthening and releasing tension in the muscles surrounding the tendon—especially your gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae, as well as the neighboring quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and hip rotators.
See also Explore Your Hamstrings: Yoga Poses for All Three Muscles
4 Common Causes of IT Band Syndrome
When any tendon is put under repeated stress from overworking or overstretching, little tears or traumas can occur, leading to injury and pain. When this happens in the IT band, it’s called IT Band Syndrome—and because tendinous tissue doesn’t get as much healing blood flow as a muscle, it can be harder to repair. What’s more, the IT band is packed with nerve endings, which is why foam rolling it can be very painful. Here, four common causes of IT Band Syndrome:
1. Excessive running, jumping, or cycling, particularly when knee and hip alignment is off. Keep in mind that any movement with poor alignment can lead to problems. That’s because part of the IT band’s purpose is to keep your knee optimally tracking as you move, so if your joints are consistently out of alignment (say, if your feet pronate when you walk or turn out when you ride your bike), it can irritate your IT band.
2. Overstretching or over-tensing your buttock muscles from exercise or poor habits (for example, sitting cross-legged or frequently wearing high heels).
3. Excessive sitting, which chronically shortens the tensor fasciae latae while overly lengthening the glutes, weakening your hips, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles and aggravating your IT band.
4. Leg length discrepancies, which can place excessive strain on one hip, leading to IT band issues on the longer leg.
See also Anatomy 101: Understanding Your Sacroiliac Joint
Using a foam roller on your IT band can do more harm than good.
Why Foam Rolling Isn’t a Cure for IT Band Syndrome
It seems logical that if you’re dealing with IT Band Syndrome, massaging the tendon with a foam roller might help. And while it will likely provide temporary relief afterward (there’s a good chance it’ll also hurt like heck while you’re rolling!), it’s my firm belief that arbitrary foam rolling of your IT band can do more harm than good. Here’s why:
For starters, excessive rolling can further irritate an aggravated IT band tendon, worsening existing micro-tears. Plus, some of the relief that comes after a foam-rolling session may be the result of stimulated stretch receptors in the vastus lateralis, the lateral quadriceps muscle that lies beneath your IT band. While this quad-tension relief can slightly relieve IT band pain, it doesn’t negate the potential additional damage caused by the foam roller. Finally, if you foam roll your IT band while ignoring the all-important gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae, you’re not addressing the underlying cause of pain.
Ball Plow Practice for Your IT Band
Instead of foam rolling, try this Ball Plow practice for your IT band.
First, use therapy balls on your gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae. Place the balls between your muscles and the floor, then ease the weight of your body onto the balls, taking deep breaths as the balls sink deep into your tissue. Stay here for 2 minutes per muscle group. As you lie on the balls, try tensing and releasing these muscles a few times to further relax the muscles and their connections to the IT band. Then, use therapy balls on the outside of your thigh, which will help to improve hip mechanics and ultimately restore proper IT band function—without risking additional damage.
It’s important to avoid trying to “roll out” or “loosen” your IT band, as it could worsen its condition. Instead, use the therapy balls to target the mobility of the muscles underneath the IT band: the quadriceps. In the following release exercise (“Ball Plow,” below), moving the therapy balls in super-slow motion helps to coax mobility into these deeper muscles. The balls will likely come in contact with your IT band at times, so limit your pressure at highly sensitive points. Attempt to apply pressure that helps to create a relaxation response in the deep thigh muscles below the IT band.
See also Releasing Tight Hips
The practice below will help you to home in on the right spots. If rolling feels painful, back off. This should feel like a tolerable stretch, leaving the area feeling warm and refreshed.
1. Rest on your side and place a pair of Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls (or other small, pliable balls) on the outside of your thigh, toward the junction between your quads and hamstrings, nestling the balls into a region that is directly below your IT band.
2. Let the balls sink in for 10 breaths. Imagine that they’re docking themselves between your quads and hamstrings.
3. Moving slowly, use the weight of your thigh to guide the balls forward (across the thigh, not lengthwise). You’ll use the deeply docked therapy balls to move your quads around your femur, mobilizing the lateral (outside) quad away from the hamstrings and creating a stretch between the bone and your quads. If done correctly, it will feel like a large hand is pivoting your thigh muscle around the bone.
4. Therapy balls will naturally roll (they are spheres, after all). Try to minimize rolling by using them to plow the entire section of muscle, which will cause your thigh to internally rotate.
5. Repeat for up to 10 minutes, moving slowly from the outside of your thigh toward the middle, then switch legs.
See also Why Inflexibility May Not Be What’s Stopping You From Doing That Pose
3 Yoga Poses + Stretches for a Healthy IT Band
When it comes to your IT band, not all yoga poses are created equal. Some lengthen the IT band’s muscular attachments, and others will reinforce their strength and stability. The following poses will help you get to know your IT band—and help heal and prevent problems.
To feel the IT band in your body, try …
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend), variation
The twisting motion in this unique variation will help you feel the origin and insertion points of your IT band, from the outside of your hip to your knee, providing a deep stretch in your glutes, lateral hamstrings, lateral calf muscles, and ankles.
How to Step your feet 2–3 feet apart and hinge forward until your hands touch the ground, keeping a neutral spine. If you have trouble touching the floor, place your hands on a block or a chair. Walk your hands to the right, allowing your whole body to revolve so your feet and head face away from their starting points. Stop when your hips and thighs reach their max rotation. Your right leg will be in front of your left. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
See also Warm Up and Cool Down: Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
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About Our Pros
Writer Jill Miller is the creator of Yoga Tune Up and The Roll Model Method, and author of The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and the International Association of Yoga Therapists Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research. Learn more at yogatuneup.com. Model Kat Fowler, E-RYT 500, is a yoga and meditation teacher and a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider in New York City. Learn more at katfowleryoga.com.
IT Band Syndrome.
Sounds like a geek squad that couldn’t quite get their act together, but really it’s the bane of many runners existence. In fact, I’ve written a whole 80 page e-Book on resolving IT Band issues once and for all because I get questions daily about it!
Today I wanted to share one of the other great lessons I learned in keeping my IT Band happy for the last 10+ years. STOP foam rolling IT Band tightness!
Why We Foam Roll
Let’s start by talking about what the foam roller does and what we are trying to accomplish.
As explained by the American Council on Exercise (ACE):
“Foam rolling is also called myofascial release and is designed to work out the “knots” in your muscles. You could compare the practice to self-massage. The technical terms for ‘knots’ are trigger points or myofascial adhesions.
What is fascia?
Fascia is connective tissue that provides stability and connection of everything in our body. A good way to think of it is that your skin is like the outer layer of an orange and the fascia is that white layer which connects everything and gives it structure!
When our fascia gets tight or twisted, through stress, training, overuse, under use, movement imbalances and injuries, we develop what are referred to as muscle adhesions…or those “knots” and trigger points everyone tells you to roll on.
We want to break up those adhesions to prevent any additional imbalances from muscles being pulled too tightly or restricting blood flow. You can read more on Breaking Muscle about why fascia matters to athletes. Why does it hurt?
As noted that break up is painful because we are forcing tissue that’s connected to muscle, bones and organs to go back to it’s relaxed state. Releasing trigger points helps to reestablish proper movement patterns and pain free movement, and ultimately, to enhance performance.
Find out why foam rolling your IT Band is making it worse! #running
What is my IT Band?
Without getting to sciencey on you, the IT Band is connective tissue (not a muscle) runs from your hip to your knee, which is why it often results in knee pain when tight. The IT band provides essential support for the outer hip in moving and standing upright.
Your IT Band is not evil and does not need to be beaten in to submission. In fact, you really shouldn’t be using the roller right along your IT Band when it’s inflamed at all.
You can’t relax the IT Band, that’s a fallacy.It’s tissue, not a muscle, so you can’t stretch it out.
It’s tightness is caused by other muscles from the glutes to misaligned hips. And rolling on it actually smashes the muscles below it, which isn’t the goal of foam rolling.
to get started on recovery >>
One common cause is weak glutes that lead to our TFL (tensor fasciae latae) to kick in to keep the knee stable…the TFL can’t sustain that level of effort so the IT Band tries to pick up the slack by tightening up…your body wants to be stable and will compensate for your weaknesses until it can’t.
What to do instead? Long term we need to correct poor movement patterns, which often come from weak areas:
- Work on activating the glutes
- Stretch the hip flexors
- Roll the thigh, the inner thigh, the glutes to release fascia (see video below)
- IT Band exercises part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4
What to Foam Roll to Release IT Band
All right, so we can’t unlock the IT Band by beating it in to a pulp and we definitely need to strength some other areas, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for foam rolling. We need to ensure everything around it loosens up given it a chance to breathe!
Laying on your stomach place the foam roller in your hip crease and roll to the knee. Never roll over the knee, repeat for up to 30 seconds and hold for 30 seconds in any spot with a knot.
Hip adductor/hip flexor/TFL
From the same position, get just one leg on the roller and work it in to that hip crease for 30 seconds. Then roll on to your side about the location of a side pocket and roll for 30 seconds.
From there keep on rolling til you have one glute on the roller and cross the other knee over in a figure 4 position. This will help you to get in to that glute medius which is frequently tender, so don’t go for pain, just move around and try to loosen the tension.
Ideally, place one calf on the roller and the other on top of it for additional pressure. You may need to work up to this, but it’s very helpful to get a little deeper. The calf needs to be rolled in 3 directions, down the middle, to the outside and to the inside to ensure you hit all the muscles. A tight calf pulls on the knee and is another common cause of knee pain.
Back on your stomach you’ll have the roller out a bit to one side and place your inner thigh on it just above the knee. This area is one of my most sensitive and a great way to tell that I need to allow these muscles to release so they aren’t pulling my knee inward while I run.
Often times we need to stop rolling the leg of the IT Band pain entirely and focus on the opposite side. For example, when my left IT Band begins to act up it’s often a quick sign for me of hip misalignment and tightness coming from the right side. If I focus on only rolling the right side, releasing that tension and allowing my body to move back in to natural alignment it resolves the ITB issues without further inflamming it through rolling.
Need more help resolving your IT Band issues?
Checkout my 80 page ebook which contains everything I’ve done for over 12 years to keep mine happy, to help the runners I coach and hundreds of others who have downloaded and started following the tips.
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In the video above, I show you foam roller exercises to help with pain coming from the IT Band. Many runners will be already familiar with the foam roller as a great tool for dealing with some of the tightness that causes the discomfort of IT Band Syndrome… It works, usually more effectively than IT Band Stretches, but probably not in the way you’re thinking.
IT Band Stretches
When foam rolling to treat Iliotibial Band Syndrome and performing IT Band stretches, many runners do so in the belief that they’re releasing a tight iliotibial band – the IT Band itself, and that foam rolling is effectively mobilising or stretching the IT band, the tissue that’s causing the problem.
The fatal flaw here is that the IT Band itself isn’t al all like a muscle. In fact, it doesn’t have the capacity to get tight of it’s own accord. It’s what we refer to as being non-contractile.
What’s more, cadaver studies have been done to better understand the tissue of the ITB itself. These have shown that the tissue is super-strong, having a similar tensile strength to that of soft steel.
Simply put, for all the IT Band stretches you may want to try, you just can’t stretch the Iliotibial Band!
This begs the question, of course, where does the tension come from?
Well, at the top end of the IT Band it doesn’t just attach directly into bone. Rather it blends into the bottom parts of two important hip muscles; Tensor Fascia Latae and Glute Max.
Now, if either or both of those guys get tight, then naturally more tension is going to be experienced by the ITB.
This increased tension in the IT Band (remember I’m saying that it’s being held under tension, not that it’s tight in-and-of itself) then often causes compression of the sensitive fat pad just around the outside of the knee here.
While previously it was thought that ITB Syndrome was caused by friction around the outside of the knee, more recent research points towards this compression of the fat pad as being the source of the pain runners experience from this injury.
Now back to our foam rolling…
Foam Roller Exercises
Hopefully it now it makes sense when I tell you that foam rolling, particularly foam rolling near the site of pain, when suffering from ITB syndrome can actually add to the compression, and therefore prolong the problem.
I certainly still encourage the use of a foam roller, just with a focus up around the hip, targeting the muscles mentioned earlier – Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) and Glute Max. These guys are often the culprits when it comes to the increased tension experienced by the ITB… which then causes compression and pain.
In reality, I see many more tight TFL muscles than I do runners with tightness in Glute Max.
Generally, the pattern is weak Glutes and overactive TFL as a consequence.
Of course, it would be still for me not to address the fact that so many runners do report improvements in their pain as a response to foam rolling the outside of the thigh. I’ve spoken here specifically about ITB Syndrome.
If your pain is related to tightness in Vastus Lateralis, the outer of the quads muscles, and this is sometimes very similar pain to ITB Syndrome (and not mutually exclusive) then you may well benefit from foam rolling the outside of the thigh… just stay away from the outside of the knee region. It’s a sensitive area!
I really hope you find this helpful in treating your Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Do let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.
Last updated on April 5th, 2019.
Continued From Above…
The iliotibial tract is classified as a deep fascia of the body, surrounding and connecting the muscles of the body to surrounding tissues. Like all other deep fascia, it is made almost exclusively of dense regular connective tissue. Dense regular connective tissue is a form of fibrous connective tissue that is extremely strong, tough, and avascular. It is made almost exclusively of collagen fibers and fibroblast cells, which produce collagen. Collagen is the strongest protein found in nature and is one of the strongest structures in the entire human body. The collagen fibers are arranged in a regular pattern of straight lines, giving the iliotibial tract incredible strength in the direction in which muscle force is applied to it and considerably less strength in other directions. A small number of elastin protein fibers are also found intermingled with the collagen fibers to permit a degree of elasticity in the tissue.
Functionally, the iliotibial tract extends the tensor fascia latae muscle into the lower thigh and leg, allowing it to function as an abductor, medial rotator and flexor of the thigh. It also allows the tensor fascia latae and gluteus maximus muscles to support the extension of the knee while standing, walking, running and biking. A common injury to the iliotibial tract is iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a condition caused by the friction of the tract moving across the tissues on the lateral side of the thigh. When the knee flexes, the iliotibial band moves posteriorly over the bony ridge of the lateral condyle of the femur. It then passes over the lateral condyle again when it moves anteriorly during knee extension. The repeated flexion and extension involved in long distance running results in the iliotibial band becoming inflamed, irritated and painful. Fortunately, this condition is easily treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).