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How to Target the IT Band with a Foam Roller

by Patty Weasler, RN October 12, 2020 0 Comments

Man using foam roller

If you have pain in your IT band, a foam roller can be the best way to make walking, running, and any lower body movement easier. The key to using a foam roller for IT band pain is to not use it directly on your iliotibial band, but to employ studied techniques for the best results. In this article, we’ll cover the right and wrong ways to use a roller for IT band pain.

Foam Rolling Techniques

Here are two foam rolling techniques that focus on the muscles that surround the IT band. These techniques will loosen tight muscles, improve flexibility, and increase blood flow to the area. Check out the instructions and videos below.

Hip Flexor Roll

This movement focuses on the tensor fasciae latae which is located near your hip joint. Start off laying on the ground. Position the foam roller under your affected side, perpendicular to your body. Place your upper leg in front of your body with your foot flat on the ground, keep your other leg straight. Slowly, move back and forth over the TFL, focusing on any tender spots.

Glute Roll

The glute roll covers one of the largest muscle groups in your entire body. Start off by sitting on the ground. Place the foam roller under your bottom. Keep one foot on the ground and bring the other foot up and cross it over your knee to rest on your thigh. Place one hand behind you to support your upper body. Slowly roll over your glute muscles. Switch sides and repeat the same movement.

Benefits of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling has become a popular method to treat muscle soreness and overuse. The foam roller works like a self-massage tool that uses your body weight to press deep into the muscle and soft tissue. For those with IT band syndrome, a foam roller can be used on the muscles surrounding the IT band to release tension and improve flexibility. Check out our list of all the benefits of foam rolling:

  • Increases blood flow to the area to improve healing
  • Promotes muscle recovery after exercise
  • Improves range of motion and flexibility
  • Provides muscle relaxation

Foam rolling is best used in conjunction with a range of different treatments. See our full guide to treating IT band pain here.

Misconceptions About Foam Rolling

The biggest misconception about foam rolling for IT band pain is that you should use the foam roller on your IT band. The iliotibial band is made up of fascia, a connective tissue that does not stretch like muscle fibers. The IT band runs up the lateral side of your leg, from the top of your knee to the crest of the hip. Pressing a foam roller into the IT band can cause more irritation and pain.

What you should do when you have IT band pain is to foam roll the muscles around it. These muscles are the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and quadriceps. Reducing tension and tightness in the surrounding muscles can help release the tightness in your legs and relieve pain.

Alternatives to Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is just one of the many treatment options for IT band pain. When it’s used in conjunction with rest, exercise, stretching, and movement modifications you will likely experience better outcomes.

Exercises

Exercises targeting the IT band work to strengthen the supporting and connective muscles to better support your body. If you are having trouble with your exercises, reach out to a physical therapist. They are professionally trained to guide you through injury recovery and prevention.

IT Band Exercises

Stretches

Proper and routine stretching will help you increase your flexibility and range of motion to prevent stiffness in your injured muscles. While stretching is great for your body make sure that you don’t stretch during the acute phase of your injury.

IT Band Stretches

How Often Should I Foam Roll?

Foam rolling is beneficial if you are working out. Try foam rolling before your workouts to warm-up your muscles to get them nice and loose. Use a foam roller after workouts to help reduce soreness and improve your muscle recovery.

Grab your foam roller anytime you experience tight muscles, whether it be during the morning, midday, or nighttime. Just avoid using it if you are experiencing any swelling, redness, or have recently experienced an injury.   

Safe Foam Rolling for the IT Band

A foam roller is a great addition as you recover from IT band syndrome. This simple tool works to alleviate tension in muscles and which can help relieve knee pain and band tightness. You want to make sure that you do not use your foam roller directly on your IT band as that can cause further irritation of the connective tissue. Focus on the surrounding muscles to find relief. Always talk to your doctor or physical therapist before you begin a new treatment to ensure you are doing what is best for your situation.

Sources:

https://thedoctorsofpt.com/when-should-i-foam-roll-my-it-band/

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/foam-rolling-the-it-band-should-you

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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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