Foam Rolling and The IT Band (Hint: It’s NOT the Enemy!)
“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 targeting the tissue where the IT band and quadriceps meet. The fascia of these muscles can get stuck together and balled up in knots (sometimes the size of grapefruits!)
This isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s one of the key pieces of tissue we need to stretch to restore our fascia to a healthy state.