How to Foam Roll and Treat Your Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Treating your “illiotibial band syndrome” by ironing out the knots in your IT-band with a foam roller.

The illiotibial band (also known as IT band) is a thick strip of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh and connects several muscles, beginning at the hip and extending to the outside of the shinbone (tibia) just below the knee joint.

Although the IT-band is not a muscle, but it works with several muscles in the thigh to stabilize the outside of the knee joint.

The IT-band is a tender spot for many people, especially for runners. 

Tightness in the IT-band affects the muscles it connects and destabilizes the knee. It has also been reported to be a major contributor to knee problems. 

So, why and how does the IT-band become tight?

According to many industry-leading health experts, there are two reasons:

  • Overuse of the muscles that it connects
  • Weakness in the gluteus medius

Overuse & glute medius weakness

Overuse of the tensor fascia latae, most commonly referred to as the TFL leads to tightness in IT-Band. 

TFL is small, strap-like muscle on the outer hip and thigh that inserts between layers of the IT-band. 

Tightness in the TFL is extremely common in active people, especially runners and cyclists with related tightness in the piriformis muscle located in the gluteal (a deep hip rotator). 

Experts believe this tightness in the TFL is closely related to the weakness in the accessory muscles (usually and underdeveloped gluteus medius, a small glute muscle located on the upper, outer butt.)

Many also believe this overuse and tightness in the TLF pulls the IT-band and can result in IT-band pain (illiotibial band syndrome) explained as pain in the lateral knee, outside edge of the joint. 

Research has shown that foam rolling the IT-Band and glute medius and performing specific “IT Band stretches” and “IT Band exercises” that strengthen the gluteus medius can help relieve the iliotibial band pain and aid in recovery. 

After foam rolling and stretching your IT Band, you can also perform a few exercises to strengthen the glute medius. 

Here is a list of the most effective glute medius strengthening exercises you can easily do at home. 

Gluteus Medius exercises:

This list was composed by the Belmont University who performed a study on 18 different gluteus maximus and medius exercises.

According to the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy who published the study, researchers took into the account of each exercise muscle activation using surface EMG electrodes and ranked them based on maximal voluntary muscle contraction (MVIC). 

In short, what you have above is is a summary of the top 5 exercises stimulating greater than 70% MVIC for the gluteus medius. 

That’s right. You are looking at the best gluteus exercises to strengthen the large muscles that’s adjacent to IT-Band and help in strengthening all the related muscles. 

How to foam roll the Iliotibial band:

  1. Place a foam roller on the floor, and lie on your left side with the roller just under your left knee and with your left arm propping your upper body. Keep your right leg bent on the floor in front of you. Place your right hand on the floor to aid in supporting your body during rolling. 
  2. Roll the foam roller up and down between your knee and hip. Stop where you feel discomfort and hold for 30-60 seconds.
  3. Switch legs and repeat.

Exercise Table

30-60 secs hold1EasyGym or Home

There you have it! 

If you are having Iliotibial Band syndrome, it may be due to the weakness of the gluteus medius.

To ease your IT-ban pain and get on the path to a fast recovery, foam roll both the piriformis muscles and your IT-band, followed by IT-band stretches and the glute exercises above. 

This formula has been proven effective in releasing the tightness in the IT-band, as well as strengthening all of the supporting muscles.

If you have any tips on how to prevent, manage and recover from IT-Band syndrome, leave a comment below to let us know.

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