The IT Band is a long tendon that is notoriously tight in runners, and one that can cause a lot of pain in the outer thigh when tight. It is little known, however, that IT Band tightness can actually stem from the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) muscle and not the IT Band itself.
IT Band and TFL Muscle
What Is The IT Band?
The IT Band is not a muscle, but rather an extension of a muscle - a tendon. IT Band is the connector between the TFL muscle and its attachment at the knee. These connections make the TFL muscle a powerful hip flexor, and a particularly strong muscle in runners.
Can I Loosen My IT Band?
The short answer to this is not really. The IT Band has a fairly fixed length, but its tension can dramatically increase when tightness is present in the TFL muscle. When the TFL muscle is tight, the IT Band loses its slack and is forced into constant tension. Constant IT Band tension can cause pain and tightness all along the outside of the thigh and knee.
What Should I Do About A Tight IT Band?
The short answer: release the TFL muscle through deep tissue massage. Effective TFL muscle release can relieve a ton of tension and pressure in the IT Band - this can't be overstated enough.
Keep in mind the TFL and IT Band tightness can refer pain all along the outer thigh. This pain can be located at the hip around the TFL muscle, or all the way down the knee where the IT Band attaches to the bone. Regardless of where the pain is felt, TFL muscle release is a great bet to find relief - see this link for how to foam roll TFL.
IT Band Release Tool
In order to effectively dig into the TFL muscle to break up the tissue causing IT Band pain and tightness, you will likely need a solid, targeted, deep tissue massage tool like QL Claw. Unlike a foam roller, QL Claw was designed to mimic the knuckle and elbow of a massage therapist. If your massage therapist releases your TFL muscle, I will guarantee they use their thumbs and knuckles - not a flat surface like a foam roller - because they are the best tools for the job. With QL Claw you can find this same relief at home. Check out more about QL Claw and IT Band tightness release below: