Why Should I foam roll my ITBand? This is a very common question that we have heard, over the years, at our clinic.  

As I  was doing a little research the other day I came across an article about the ITBand,  This article provided me with more reasons for encouraging clients to foam roll their ITBands.

YourHealthySteps: Christina and I are not medical doctors. We are not diagnosing, treating, or prescribing, This is for educational purposes only. We are giving you 14 years of experience as Neuromuscular Massage Therapist, who have worked with professional, semi-professional, collegiate, and highly athletic adults.

First of all what is the ITBand and where is it? It is a large band or sheet of elastic connective tissue, which is primarily fascia. It occupies a large part of the outside of the upper leg. To find it, you need to start at the top of the hip.  Place your hand on your hip with your fingers pointing toward the front.  Your fingers are resting  on a small muscle called the Tensor Fasciae Latea (TFL).  Part of the ITBand emerges out of the bottom portion of this small muscle. The ITBand also emerges out of the hip bone right behind the TFL muscle. If you move your fingers backwards about the width of 3 fingers you should be right on that portion of the ITBand.  Finally, a part of the ITBand also emerges out of the big butt muscle, Gluteus maximus. Place you hands on the hip bone, which is the top the of the femur, then move your fingers backward toward your glutes. As you move off the hip bone you are right on the ITBand fiber coming out of Gluteus maximus.  Now run your hand up and down the outside of your leg from the top of the hip to the knee.  This is the general location of the ITBand.  The band is fairly wide at the top and narrows as it get closer to the knee. It inserts just  below the knee on the top outside portion of the large lower leg bone called the tibia.

Why is the ITBand  important for athletic adults? Actually it’s important for anyone who wants to be active to have a healthy ITBand.   Because of its many functions and location it can impact how we walk, run, and stand.  A tight ITBand can create a great deal of torque on the hip and knee causing pain, inflammation and eventually uneven wear and tear. Unfortunately, most athletic adults are either not aware of the ITBand, not sure what it is, not sure what it does, or how to take care of it until it gets angry.  The ITBand also has a bad reputation for being very very painful to foam roll, and its commonly avoided because of that.  At our clinic we hear a lot of question concerning the ITBand such as:  Why does foam rolling the ITBand hurt so much? Do I have to foam roll the ITBand? What is the ITBand?, What does the ITBand do? Is the ITBand Important?  So let’s talk a little about what the ITBand, and about this research article.

What does the IT Band do? The ITBand has quite a few different functions. One of it’s most important functions is to act as a stabilizer for the hips and knees. It also helps pull the hip downward, rotates the hip inward and pull the hip outward to the side. The fact that it does all this is pretty impressive. So 2 thumbs up for the ITBand.  But new research is showing that the ITBand does a bit more then that!

What did this research show? This research has created some new data that shows that the ITBand has the ability to store and release energy while walking or running.  The data showed that the ITBand has the capacity to store 15 to 20 times more elastic energy per body mass than other primates. And that this energy-storage capacity was substantially greater during running than walking.  Basically what this means is that as our leg moves backward, during running or walking, the ITBand  is pulled taunt creating stored energy.  As the leg moves forward that stored energy is released helping pull the leg forward. The theory is that this results in energy savings. The body doesn’t have to work as hard getting the leg back out front of us ready to strike the ground.  The ITBand builds up energy as the leg moves backwards, then that energy helps swing or pull the leg forward, releasing the stored energy.

So what does that mean?  The thought is that this helps humans run long distances. Helping us conserve energy so that we can use more muscle energy when the leg is pulled backward, propelling the body forward.  For me it show us how amazing our bodies are. Not only do our muscle move in wonderful ways, but our body want to do it with the least amount of energy spent.  From a therapist point of view, it supports the idea that  we must also help our bodies work more efficiently.  Most of us think about foam rolling muscle as a way to help our muscles move more fluidly, tend to have a harder time understanding the need to foam roll a large band of fascia. It’s important to remember that if  this band is to tight. 1. How can it store the correct amount of energy to swing the leg forward, 2. How can it effectively release that stored energy, 3. How much stress and strain is being placed on the hip or knee.  3. What is the extra strain doing to our ability to move our leg through the whole gait cycle of walking or running.

At YourHealthySteps we believe that in order for your body to work well, it has to work efficiently. Your body needs to be flexible and fluid in its movement. The ITBand,  just like a muscle, must not be allowed to get to tight. A tight body will not preform at its peak. I have provided the link to this article for those who might enjoy a good read.

Here is the link to the article: The research article The Harvard Gazette Health & Mediciane Understanding the ITBAND August 26 2015

How do I know if my ITBand is to tight? You could feel tightness in the outside edge of the hip or the outside of the knee, especially  when you go to stand or to sit. There can  be pain deep in the hip, down the thigh, down to the knee, which you can really feel  when you walking quickly.  You can also have tenderness on the side of your leg, especially when you foam roll it.  External Snapping Hip Syndrome. can develop out of a tight ITBand. The snapping typically occurs during hip flexion and extension, such as when running and climbing stairs. Hip snapping may also be noticeable when playing a sport like golf, tennis or carrying a heavy load, even a heavy backpack. It can also be accompanied by sharp, sudden pain that is felt on the outside of the hip. In some cases you may be able to see the skin shudder as the tendon snaps. In other cases, the hip actually feels like it is about to pop out its socket. Snapping Hip Syndrome starts gradually and worsen over weeks or months. These are the more common issue people can have with the ITBand.

What athletic sport tends to have trouble with their ITBands? Generally, we think of runners when we think of ITBands. But really any sport can come across this, swimmers gymnasts, wrestlers, cyclist and dancers to name a few.

How to I take care of this? We preach and practice foam rolling.  Foam rollers are the best tool to reduce a tight ITBand,  It must be done correctly and gently  in order not to hurt or bruise yourself. The ITBand can be very very painful and tender. Learn the correct foam rolling techniques from Basic, Intermediate, to Advance.  Finally, stretching is beneficial.  Find 2-3 good stretches that work for you, and then rotate them every day.  This is what we do and it’s what we teach our clients, and students to do.

Make sure you “Like” our Facebook page so you can get weekly self care advice. Our passion is to help you stay healthy and pain-free so you can keep on doing what you love to do.

 Grab our FREE Report, 4 Things NO ONE has Ever Told You About Foam Rolling + Tips to Immediately Make Your Foam Rolling More Effective
Learn more about our Foam Rolling and Self Care Program: The Ultimate Foam Rolling Blueprint