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TFL Muscle - What It Is And How To Release It

Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) muscle is a long, critical hip flexor muscle on the front side of the thigh. The TFL muscle contains a dense bulb-like portion and a long tendon called the IT Band. Read on to learn what the TFL muscle is, how it could be your pain culprit, and how to relieve it.

tfl muscle

TFL Muscle - Anatomical Image


TFL Muscle Anatomy

TFL Muscle Group

First, we need to nail down what the TFL muscle is and what we are really targeting here. TFL is a hip flexor muscle consisting of a thick bulb and a long tendon, connecting from the outer-upper pelvis to the outside of the knee. The TFL muscle is the outermost of the 5 hip flexor muscles - muscles that contract the knee closer to the chest. In addition, TFL has an additional use as a single-leg stabilizer (and it is the only hip flexor muscle with this function). This second function as a single-leg stabilizer helps keep you upright while standing on one leg.

TFL Muscle Function

As touched on above, the TFL muscle has two primary functions. The first function is a hip flexor that swings the leg forward and knees closer to the chest. The hip flexor function of the TFL muscle looks like swinging the leg forward during running, or kicking a soccer ball.

The second function of the TFL muscle is single-leg stability - in other words staying upright while on one leg. To test this out, stand on one leg and feel for the hard, dense TFL muscle on the front side of the hip of the leg you are standing on. To feel a contrast, feel the same spot on the hip of the leg you are not standing on - it should be soft like a relaxed muscle.


TFL Muscle Pain

Pain Pattern Of The TFL Muscle

Now for the gnarly stuff - TFL muscle pain. The TFL muscle can be a source of an aching pain pattern in the outer hip, thigh, and knee (see the bright red in the image below). This pain is often labeled IT Band pain in the hip, hip flexor pain, or some other phenomena. However, if you are experiencing the pain pattern below, the TFL muscle is definitely one you want to inspect.

TFL Muscle Pain Pattern

TFL Muscle Pain Pattern [1]

TFL Muscle Pain Triggers

The TFL muscle can become tight, aggravated, and trigger-point-ridden via two common mechanisms: 1) to exert a load on the TFL muscle that it can't handle, causing lockups and strain, and 2) to sit too much.

The first way to create TFL muscle pain via exertion is more popular among athletes, particularly runners and soccer players. These two sports tax the TFL muscle a ton due to their excessive need for using the TFL muscle at a high capacity, in a) swinging the leg forward and b) standing on one leg. When the TFL muscle is overused past its capacity, knots, strain, and extreme tightness can occur and force the TFL muscle to cause pain.

The second common way to give yourself TFL muscle pain is by sitting too much. Since the TFL muscle is a hip flexor, it shortens when you are sitting. Too much time in a seated position without attention paid to stretching and correction is a recipe for a tight TFL muscle and TFL pain.


How To Relieve TFL Muscle Pain

TFL muscle pain relief begins with effective, thorough deep tissue massage. The goal here is to break up all of the constant tension, knots, and trigger points in the TFL muscle causing it to be a tough, tight band. Aim for 2 minutes of deep tissue work on each side for 2 sets for optimal release - using a TFL release tool like QL Claw. QL Claw is hands down my favorite TFL release tool because it is sturdy, tough but giving, and a therapeutically delicious material. Use QL Claw to release your TFL muscle anytime, anywhere - watch how to in the video below:




Own your TFL muscle pain once and for all. Check out QL Claw (our favorite TFL muscle release tool) at the link below - your hips will thank you!






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

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