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Using IT Band Massage for Pain Relief

by Patty Weasler, RN October 12, 2020 0 Comments

Massaging with lacross ball

IT band syndrome is caused by a tight iliotibial band that is rubbing against the knee. IT band massage is one way to treat symptoms without the use of medication, by loosening tense muscles and soothing soreness. Keep reading to learn more about how you can incorporate massage into your IT band syndrome treatment plan.

How Does Massage Help?

The IT band is a long piece of connective tissue, also known as fascia, that runs down the outside of the leg. When the IT band gets tight it rubs against the outer part of the knee which causes the pain and swelling. This is generally an overuse injury found in cyclists, runners, and other athletes who bend their knees frequently. It’s often found that sufferers have weak hip muscles or tightness that is causing their knee pain.

Massage can help IT band pain by relieving tightness in the leg muscles, improve flexibility, and your range of motion. Here are all the benefits of massage for this condition:

  • Releases tense muscles
  • Works out muscle knots
  • Increases dopamine
  • Soothes soreness
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Improve circulation

While helpful on its own, massage can be particularly useful when used in conjunction with IT band stretches and exercises.

Self-Massage Techniques

There are two self-massage techniques that are helpful for people with IT band pain. These two techniques focus on the muscles that attach to the IT band and when they become tight can cause pain. Check them out below.

Tensor Fascia Latae Self-Massage

The tensor fascia latae (TFL) is a muscle that connects to the IT band. Massaging this muscle can help alleviate your pain. Here is a self-massage technique for this muscle.

Grab a massage ball and lay down with your painful side up. Gently massage your tensor fascia latae, which is the muscle just below your hip bone on your side. Over time, you will release tension within the muscle and loosen the muscle fibers.

Gluteus Maximus Self-Massage

The gluteus maximus is the largest glute muscle. It partially attaches to the IT band making this muscle an important link to IT band issues.

To massage your gluteus maximus you’ll want to use a massage tool like a handheld massager or a foam roller. Focus your massage onto the large muscle over your buttocks being careful to avoid massaging the actual IT band itself. Since the IT band is made of a fibrous tissue, massaging it can cause more swelling and pain.

Check out this article to find out more about foam rolling for IT band pain.

TENS Therapy

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses a small device called a TENS unit that delivers a small amount of electrical stimulation to the electrodes that are placed on specific areas of the body. The electrical stimulation can help decrease pain, improve blood circulation, and speed healing. It’s commonly used in conjunction with other treatment options for people with certain injuries.

When used with IT band pain the TENS unit will decrease your pain by interrupting the pain signal and can relax muscles. It’s a helpful treatment that is used intermittently but typically doesn’t cause side effects or have any down-time after use.

Professional Massage Options

Sometimes you need the expertise of a massage therapist. They are able to work areas you can’t reach and put more pressure into your muscles. There are multiple massage options available for those with IT band pain. Check them all out below.

  • Sports Massage

    A sports massage is used for athletes who want to get ready for or recover from their workouts or events. This type of massage is focused on preventing and treating injuries, improving flexibility, and optimizing the athlete’s performance. A massage therapist can use a variety of movements to mobilize the soft tissue and work out any tightness.

  • Deep Tissue Massage

    For a deep tissue massage, your therapist presses deep into the muscles and connective tissue to work out muscle knots or trigger points. They will use slow movements across the muscles and spot to focus on any troubled areas. This type of massage is especially helpful for people who have chronic injuries or pain that causes decreased movement in one or more areas of their body.

    To perform deep tissue massage at home grab a firm massage ball that will give you that myofascial release by working deep into your muscles.

  • Swedish Massage

    A Swedish massage is the most common type of massage that is offered by therapists. It involves a wide range of massage strokes that focus on relaxing the body and recovering from injury. The strokes that you may encounter during a Swedish massage are: effleurage, friction, petrissage, and tapotement. With iliotibial band syndrome, this type of massage will give you an overall sense of relaxation while working out the tension that goes along with the injury.

Finding Safe IT Band Massage Techniques That Work

Massage therapy uses different movements or strokes to release tension in muscles and bring a sense of relaxation. If you suffer from ITB syndrome or have knee pain then working the muscles that surround your tight IT band can bring pain relief and help you regain flexibility. Before you begin massaging your muscles check in with your physical therapist or doctor to make sure you avoid causing further injury to the area.


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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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