If you’re a runner, cyclist, or hiker, chances are you’ve either experienced pain, tension, or some kind of discomfort along your iliotibial band, commonly referred to as the infamous IT band. This can often be diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, as ilitiobial (IT) band syndrome. People will often be told or read that rolling it out using a foam roller or yoga ball is the best fix.
While for some that may be a way to reduce some pain, the truth is that it won’t do much in terms of fixing the issue at heart.
The IT band runs from the top of the tip along the outside of the thigh down to the outside of the knee. It’s mainly formed of a long stretch of fibrous connective tissue, rather than actual muscle tissue. It is connected to several neighbouring muscles and is predominantly pulled on by the TFL (tensor fascia latae) and the gluteus maximus, two muscles in the hip.
Since the IT band is predominantly composed of dense connective tissue, research has concluded that no amount of stretching, massage, or foam rolling will have a significant effect on the IT band. So why does it feel good? In essence, pressure applied to the area can create an analgesic effect, relieving some pain symptoms but not solving the core of the issue.
The cause of IT band syndrome can vary by individual as well as their main sport or activity practiced. Unfortunately, there’s no “one exercise fits all” when it comes to IT band pain, but here are a few of the most common causes and solutions.
If none of these seem to fit your problem or help with your pain, we recommend meeting with one of our physiotherapists to help identify the source of the problem. It’s always better to get to the root of the problem rather than cover the symptoms.
In the end, though foam rolling your IT band may, for some, grant some pain relief, no change is being made in the tissue itself and the source of the problem is not being addressed. For many, foam rolling of the IT band is not an enjoyable process so, kick it to the curb and get to the source!