The illiotibial band (ITB) is a fibrous band of fascia that runs down the outside of your upper leg. More specifically, it goes from the junction of the tensor fasciae latae (TFL-otherwise know as the hip flexor) and gluteus maximus (the big butt muscle), down the outside of your leg and attaches just below the knee to the lateral condyle of the tibia (that bump just below the outside of the knee).
(FYI – As mentioned above, the ITB is fascia not muscle. Fascia is a type of connective tissue that also takes the form of ligaments (attaches bone to bone) and tendons (attaches muscle to bone). And like other types of connective tissue, fascia binds structures together, provides pathways for blood vessels and such, and serves as a framework. Perhaps more on fascia in a later post. But together with the TFL, the ITB helps with hip flexion, abduction and medial rotation.)
One often first becomes aware of their ITB when they feel pain on the outside of their knee. This pain could be from the increased friction of the ITB rubbing over the bony lateral condyle of the tibia, with every running stride or pedal stroke. If left untreated, the ITB gets tighter and tighter with use, and movement at the knee becomes more painful, eventually causing so much pain that one has to stop running/cycling because it is so painful to do.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!!! All it takes are some preventative measures — and some time. Believe me, severe ITB pain is not something you want to have, unless you are looking for an excuse not to exercise.
I have worked on so many endurance athletes with ITB tightness/pain, that I almost assume that it will be a problem area on all endurance athletes that I work on. I actually work on the ITBs of every single client I have, since ITB tightness/pain is so prevalent overall.
Therefore, as you might have guessed, I strongly believe that one should use preventative measures regarding the ITB. If caught and dealt with early enough, it doesn’t have to be an area of concern.
Regular massage is a great preventative measure, since most massage therapist will massage the ITB to help keep it loose. However, even better is to do self-massage on a regular basis by using the foam roller.
Foam rollers can be purchased online (www.performbetter.com) or locally at Peak Performance (www.mypeakmultisport.com). I suggest the black ones (3′ long 6″round). They are firmer and last longer than the white ones. There are other foam roller options, but regardless you can’t go wrong.
If you are totally new to these rollers, you might have someone at the store show you how to use them. Basically you lie down on the floor on your side. Support your upper body with your arms, place the foam roller under the outside of the leg lowest to the floor. Using your arms and top leg, release as much of your body weight as you can handle (pain-wise) onto the roller and roll from your hip down to your knee and back. Roll up and down for a few minutes, pausing and focusing on the most painful/tight areas.
This is great to do daily after your run, ride, walk. Lots of people use the time at the end of the day while they are watching TV to roll. You can roll not only your ITBs, but also calves, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, and quads. You can be pretty creative with it. You may not “have fun”, but if it is painful, you need it. It is a lot better than having me use my forearm or elbow on your ITBs.