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Foam Rolling IT Band The Right Way (STOP ROLLING YOUR QUAD)

I have heard too many people tell me they "foam roll their IT Band" not to write this. A complete summary of this post is this: The IT Band is a non-lengthenable tendon that attaches muscle to bone. To slacken/release the IT Band, you must massage the actual muscle (TFL) that the IT Band is attached to, because muscles can lengthen and tendons can't. The anatomy image below should be all the information you need to know where to foam roll/massage to release the IT Band, but the rest of this post will go into the why and how, and a deeper alternative.

Foam Rolling IT Band - Placement

IT Band & TFL Muscle Anatomy


Anatomy For Foam Rolling The IT Band

The IT Band is a portion of the TFL muscle, a hip flexor that connects from the top of the pelvis to the knee. The TFL muscle and IT Band are one unit that functions and gets tight together. To release tension in the IT Band, whether by foam rolling, stretching, or deep tissue massage - the focus should be on releasing tension in the TFL muscle as a whole.

Foam Rolling IT Band Pain Pattern

TFL/IT Band Pain Pattern (Left), TFL Muscle (Right) [1]

An important consideration here is whether or not you actually need to foam roll the IT Band in the first place. The point of foam rolling is myofascial release, increased blood flow, and reduced muscle tension. If the pain pattern above resonates with your symptoms, then TFL/IT Band foam rolling is for you.

The last anatomical consideration to make before foam rolling the TFL/IT Band is to understand the source of your pain is not always where the pain is felt [2]. This is the concept of referred pain, where pain felt in one area may be caused by muscle tension in another area. Even if your pain and tension are felt halfway down the Quad, the relief will still come from massaging the bulb at the top of the hip. Foam rolling the IT Band itself will not bring any length to the TFL muscle.


How To Foam Roll IT Band

To foam roll the IT Band, place the foam roller on the bulb-portion of the TFL muscle as illustrated above. The orientation of your body should look like the images below when you are on the correct spot.

Foam Rolling IT Band - Front View

Front View - Foam Rolling IT Band Placement

Foam Rolling IT Band Back View

Back View - Foam Rolling IT Band Placement

It may help to feel for the TFL bulb muscle prior to foam rolling, just so you know where it is. The TFL muscle is thick and typically very tight, and it should feel good to massage. Try feeling for the bulb while standing first it you are having a hard time feeling the muscle in this foam rolling position.

Foam Roller Specifics: I recommend using a foam roller with grooves or stubs when foam rolling for IT Band release. A smooth, flat foam roller is not able to get very deep, and I have found alternatives like QL Claw or a grooved foam roller to be much more effective.

Motion: Once in position, gently roll up and down on the bulb portion of the TFL muscle. This muscle is pretty short, so not much movement is required. Spend about 90 seconds (longer is ok as long as it feels therapeutic) on each side to feel the IT Band open up and release.


Foam Rolling IT Band - A Deep Tissue Alternative

Now that we understand foam rolling the IT Band, you may realize that there is more benefit to releasing the IT Band from deep tissue massage than foam rolling. A foam roller may not be deep enough to thoroughly release the IT Band - if you go to a trained massage therapist, she/he will use their thumbs and knuckles to dig into the TFL and release the IT Band, not the palm of their hand.

The foam roller alternative we created and love is the QL Claw deep tissue massage tool. We created QL Claw to dig deep into the muscles in and around the lower back and hips for the best muscle release possible. QL Claw is smaller than a foam roller, and its "trigger" portion (which does the massage) was designed to mimic the knuckles and elbows of a massage therapist. Learn more about QL Claw and release your IT Band for good:




TFL Massage & IT Band Release With QL Claw:


Read Next:

The IT Band typically gets tight in conjunction with the Gluteus Medius muscle on the backside of the body. Both Gluteus Medius and TFL support the body while on one leg and during running, and both tend to tighten up together. Read Gluteus Medius Pain and/or Hip Pain After Running next for a more holistic picture on muscle anatomy and making your body a well-oiled machine!


Gluteus Medius Pain

Hip Pain After Running




[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

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