Often people get a tight or burning sensation down the outside of your upper leg when your running jumping. A common reaction to roll this area of the leg to stretch the IT Band and relieve the perceived tightness. So after 2 minutes of pulling funny faces (rolling your IT band is very painful), what have you achieved…well nothing really.
Don’t worry if you’ve wasted countless hours in the gym trying to roll out your IT Band, you’re not alone. Foam rolling the IT Band is one of the most recommended techniques for relieving hip, knee and upper thigh pain.
This is because you cannot change the structure of your it band by applying pressure. And continual rolling onto your IT band can do more harm than good.
Continue reading if you want to find out how to cater to this troublesome area.
First Up – What is the IT Band?
Believe it or not, humans we are not born with an IT band. We are born with a mesh-like layer called fascia which encloses the thigh muscles. This is known as the Fascia lata.
There are two muscles which blend into the Fascia lata, these are:
The Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and the Gluteus Maximus.
So Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?
This is one of the of most common misconceptions about the IT Band, and although it might feel tight, the IT Band itself cannot shorten or lengthen the way a muscle would. If you do feel like your IT Band is tight, then its most likely that the connecting muscles located near the hip have become dysfunctional. This is a common problem with the TFL.
The reasons for this is as we sit down for long periods when at work, school, driving or watching tv, are hips are flexed. When this happens, the TFL shortens as it adapts to this position. The problem comes when we try to walk or run, as we extend the hip the shortened TFL pulls on the IT Band, causing the feeling of tightness and pain.
The other reason for tightness or pressure in the IT Band is to do with the Vastus Lateralis (the outer quad muscle) that is located underneath the IT Band.
Issues with pain in the It band area are often known as IT Band Syndrome.
Top 5 Causes of IT Band SyndromeThe following 5 reasons are the most common causes of tightness in the It Band area.
IT Band Foam Rolling ExercisesSo as we’ve discovered, when targeting the IT Band with the foam roller, we need to work on the TFL and the Vastus Lateralis.Below is a great demonstration of how to foam roll the IT Band area:
How to Foam Roll Your TFL and IT BandFirst off roll the TFL:
- Start of by laying in a side plank position and place the foam roller underneath the TFL. Use you elbow and other leg to support your weight.
- Once you have pressure on the TFL area, simply role forward and back around 2-3inches. The TFL is a small muscle, so large movements are not needed.
- When you find a tender area, stop and hold for 30 seconds, or until the tenderness has gone.
Can You Really Stretch the IT Band?
Similar to foam rolling, there is a lot of contradicting information regarding stretching your IT Band. In theory, the IT Band is a tendon, so stretching this area will have no beneficial results.
However, a 2017 study published in the International Journal Sports of Physical Therapy investigated this theory. They looked at the effect of stretching the area, with the results showed the upper area of the IT Band provided greater stretch than the lower region.
However, it is unclear whether the results are due to the change in the structure of the IT Band or the stretching of the TFL muscle which it connects to.
Therefore, we would suggest foam rolling and stretching the surrounding areas of the TFL, Glutes and Quad muscles.
Upper Body Foam Rolling Exercises
- How to foam roll your neck muscles
- How to foam roll your shoulder muscles
- How to foam roll your chest muscles
- How to foam roll your lats
- How to foam roll your rhomboids
- How to foam roll your arm muscles