More than likely you are familiar on how to rollout your IT band if you have ever stepped foot into a gym. When I started my career as a personal trainer it seemed that was all anyone knew how to do with those long foam rollers that the gym provides. Even my manager told me that it was good for me to have my clients rollout their IT bands. It wasn’t until years later when I took an extensive anatomy course from one of my teachers, Beverly Hosford, MA, that I realized I had been misinformed. Beverly has her Master’s in Kinesiology and I am grateful that she has been able to teach me many things over the years to help develop my knowledge and make me a better trainer.
So What Is The IT Band?
It is a tendon which is a fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Tendons feel tight because the muscles they are connected to are tight. The tendon itself doesn’t really change in shape, size, etc. However, a muscle can be manipulated to grow in size (through strength training), length (myofascia release and stretching), and develop adhesions from muscle damag. It may feel good to massage this area, however, it is not changing anything that will help give permanent relief. If you don’t address the tight muscles that are the culprit then it is no better than slapping duck tape on your car bumper that is falling off.
To give yourself some relief it is important to understand the muscles that attach to the IT band. Your glute maximus (if you grab a hold of your butt then you’ve found it) and your tensor fascia latae ( or TFL which is in your front hip crease). Many people do suffer from these areas of tension due to desk jobs. If you spend a lot of time sitting then you are likely adversely affecting these muscles. Aside from a tight IT band, many of clients suffer from an anterior tilt in their pelvis creating low back pain.
Ways To Find Relief
- Foamroller- There are a multitude of ways to address this issue so your hips and knees feel less like someone that is 90 years old. The obvious way if you already are familiar with a foam roller is to just use it in these new spots. You will want to spend a few minutes on each muscle. Remember to breathe while you are massaging. If you find yourself holding your breath because of the intense feeling then just back off a bit. Depending on how tight these areas are it may take awhile to build up to the 3 minutes. I would suggest creating a daily routine until some relief is achieved and possibly reducing to every other day. You can do this while you watch TV or right after working out. CAUTION: With any of these methods you want to avoid the groin area or bikini line when addressing your TFL to avoid risk of creating ahernia.
- Yoga Tune-Up Balls – If you are a client of mine you know how much of a believer I am in these things. They are nothing short of amazing! I love how these things can pinpoint a specific spot that many tools just can’t get to. There are other massage balls out there or lacrosse balls or tennis balls, but they just don’t compare. You can find many videos on You Tube on how to target areas of tension in your body. If you train with me just have me show you at our next session.
- Yoga – Specifically a vinyasa or gentle yoga class. Most of these type of classes have stretches to help open up the hips in poses like half-pigeon, lizard, various lunges and twists. While other styles of yoga have their place, the two previously mentioned will be more beneficial towards giving your IT band the needed relief.
Regardless of the method that you choose to use to get your muscles squishy, you should feel more confident in your anatomy knowing the right way to loosen up your IT band.