Foam Rolling and The IT Band (Hint: It’s NOT the Enemy!)

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“I have an IT Band issue.”

I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from new clients who believe the IT Band is at the root of all their problems, from knee pain to back pain.

Google “foam rolling” and you’ll see more videos for how to roll the IT band than any other muscle in the body. I see people in the gym every day foam rolling the crap out of their IT band the way it’s been traditionally taught and I want to yell: STOP!

The IT Band is NOT your enemy.

The main job of the IT band is to stabilize us from knee to hip (or hip to knee). It needs to have a high degree of tension (tightness) in the direction of knee to hip to do that job.

Notice the picture on the right: the IT band is white, whereas the other major muscles are shown in red. This isn’t a mistake. While all muscles have a lot of fascia holding them together, the IT band is special in that it is mostly made of connective tissue (fascia) and almost looks like a giant tendon or ligament rather than a muscle.

Don’t make the mistake of rolling your IT band out like pizza dough!

Foam rolling as it is traditionally taught targets muscles (not fascia), and the method is typically an attempt to force the muscle to change via manipulation from the outside.

To actually stretch fascia and effect change, we need to pin it in place and then get the tissue to change itself through movement.

Watch the second video (below) to learn how I roll the IT band by

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How to Uncouple Suffering From Pain

 

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Pain and suffering are NOT synonymous! If you’re in pain (physical, mental, emotional), it doesn’t automatically mean you’re doomed to suffer.

What is the difference?

Pain is simply information. If we’re talking about physical pain in the body, it is the sensory information our body is using to get our attention and ask for help. That’s it! Even using the word “pain” is a distraction from the truth, because most of us assume pain is bad. It’s not! We should all celebrate that our bodies talk to us via pain in order to stop us from doing things that could seriously injure or kill us.

Suffering, on the other hand, is the meaning we attach to the sensory information we’re receiving from our body.

The best possible way to separate these two is to fully accept and celebrate that pain is your body talking to you, and then foster an attitude of curiosity about it. What is your body trying to tell you, and ask of you?

Most of the time when we experience pain we go into panic mode and react emotionally with frustration or irritation towards our body (the very thing that is trying to helps us!)

What if we replaced those reactions with genuine curiosity? What might we discover?

What is Fascia and Why Should We Care?

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If I could have every person on this planet study just ONE thing to stay healthy, it would be the fascial system. In a previous post I shared a video by Thomas Myers, who is the fascia expert of our time. He does a wonderful job explaining what fascia is and I recommend you watch that video as well if you’re committed to learning about your fascia. And I wanted to share some of my own thoughts here.

We have more fascia than anything else in our bodies. Fascia (or connective tissue) is the name we give to the web-like structure of tissues that hold us together, from the cellular level to the “sacs” that wrap huge muscle groups.

To the right is a small picture of the fascial system, and you can see how it wraps every individual muscle fibril, fiber, bundle and entire groups of muscles, and then all of that connecting fascia is what turns into tendon and ligament, which in turn attaches to our bones or joints.

All of that fascia is meant to be elastic and flexible and able to move with us freely as we go about our lives and sports. But almost everyone I know today has unhealthy fascia (myself included). Even if you’re not in pain, it doesn’t mean your fascia is in optimal health! And if you are in pain, then your fascia is especially unhealthy and in a state of imbalance.

Fascia is the superhighway for communication from the brain to the body and back again. It houses our nervous system and is the channels through which blood needs to flow to nourish tissues, muscles, joints and organs.

When our fascia is adhered to itself and in a state of dehydration and unhealthy tension then blood won’t flow freely through the body, which can cause all manner of “itis’s” (inflammatory responses like tendinitis, arthritis, bursitis etc). Those knots you feel in your shoulders? That’s not tightness and it’s NOT your muscle! It’s fascia that’s adhered to itself because it’s being pulled on (or overstretched) by bigger more dominant muscles or postural habits, and it’s forming “knots” in an attempt to stay where it belongs instead of being pulled somewhere else.

Imbalances in the fascial system left to right and front to back (leg leg to right leg, or front to back in your legs or upper body) will cause everything from plantar fasciitis to low back and hip pain to shoulder range of motion issues.

When we release tight fascia and put space back into that connective tissue system, blood flows freely, movement becomes fluid and pain stops.

I recently had a client tell me he believes his stigmatism is getting better after just two sessions of opening the fascia in his upper body! I’ve had other clients who came for shoulder pain or migraines tell me they’re seeing better after we unblock the “dams” (tight fascia) blocking blood flow to the ocular nerve!

I could go on and on, and geek out on this all day! But I’ll leave at this for today: fascia is extremely important and if you want to take responsibility for your body’s health, I cannot recommend enough that you start learning more about it and how to stretch it properly and keep it healthy. Which is precisely what I intend to help you do here at Mobility Mastery.

 

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