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Muscle Spotlight: Tensor Fascia Latae & IT Band

It has been some time since our last Nu Era Fitness post.  But, since our last post received so much positive feedback we thought we would keep our focus on the Body!  The Nu Era Muscle spotlight: tensor fascia latae (TFL) & iliotibial (IT) band.  Have you ever wonder why it hurts so bad when you Foam Roll from your hip down the side of you leg.  Well, we have deprived our IT band of the attention it deserves, but no longer!  Get your read on and learn to take great care of your body…it’s the only one you got!

Location: put your hands on your hips and feel the muscle that is right below the bony part of your hips and a little to the outside of your hip. This is where the TFL attaches. The muscle is only inches long and it attaches to the IT band which continues down the side of your leg and attaches below the knee (the gluteus maximus also attaches to the IT band).

Function: helps you lift your leg to the side (hip abduction) and turn your leg inward (internal rotation). It also works to stabilize your hip, pelvis and knee.

Why is this muscle important?

Most of the spotlight is usually on the IT band, which is not a muscle. It’s a really really thick, dense type of tissue (aka fascia) that just connects the TFL to the knee.

The IT band gets a lot of attention because it can be a big cause of injury and misalignment of the body if it becomes tight. It can even cause you to have slight scoliosis or a leg length difference when it’s really tight. And since you can’t really stretch it (because it’s so darn thick) you have to spend some quality time on your foam roller to really break up any adhesions and keep it in good condition.

What kind of problems can a tight TFL & IT band lead to?

It’s pretty common to see someone with a yucky IT band. Sometimes the TFL goes along with that too, although it is commonly overlooked because it’s hard to foam roll that close to your bone without really causing some intense pain. Because of the amount of sitting that we all do (causing tightness of the TFL and IT band) I believe that even if you don’t have an injury, you can still benefit from foam rolling this area of your body to prevent problems down the line. Knee pain is a common result of these being tight. Especially runners, who get what’s called the IT band friction syndrome. Basically what happens is the IT band is so tight that it rubs across a portion of the knee, leading to inflammation and all that fun stuff. Problems can also arise in the hip and low back because of the alignment issues that are caused when these become tight.

So how do you give love to your TFL and IT band?

Foam rolling is your best bet because it’s a form of self myofascial release. Myo(muscle) being the TFL and fascia being the IT band. This is painful, but will feel better with time! Either that or you just learn to love the pain:) The lacrosse ball can be good to get into your TFL, but may be a little too aggressive for the IT band. If you only have a lacrosse ball you can maybe just lean against and wall and roll it along your IT band.

I also think that stretching the TFL is an important aspect of keeping the lateral side of your leg healthy and mobile. I think this is where a lot of people miss out because they foam roll, but maybe don’t stretch after. Here are a few things to try after your foam roll:

Happy stretching!!