Get to know your IT Band
No this isn’t your computer co-worker joining his friends in his garage to jam. HA!
Your IT Band is your Iliotibial Band. It is not a muscle but rather a deep fascial layer. This connective tissue runs along the outside of your thigh connecting the Iliac Crest (part of your Ilium or pelvis) to your Tibia (the shinbone). It works to stabilize the knee and coordinate muscle function in the leg. It allows the Gluteus Maximus (butt) muscle and the Tensor Fascia Latae (that would be a great coffee name) muscle to do their jobs in bending, straightening the thigh and extending and rotating the leg at the hip.
It is commonly associated with inflammation of the knee for runners. The constant bending, lifting, straightening, bending, lifting, etc. in running can cause pain in the knee as the IT Band moves over the knee and tries to support the Tibia.
But I’m not a runner; and yet my body is all too aware of its IT Band. Months ago, my back spasmed and reminded me of who is actually in charge. While I attempted to stretch and rotate my spine and unlock my hips, I made little progress to relieve my low-back pain. I knew my core muscles needed strengthening to support my back, so I returned to Pilates. My trainer watched my slow, painful movements, then pulled out a foam roller. “Here, let’s roll out your IT Bands.” she instructed.
I rested my hip on the roller and moved slowly down toward my knee. AGONY! (or ago-knee…HA…sorry) There was the source of some serious tightness and pain. After about 3 minutes on the roller, she asked me to go through the movements again. Wow! Already a reduction in pain and more range-of-motion in my hips and spine.
But why? This was my outer thigh, not my back. So I thought through my anatomy – how does each muscle, each tissue, tendon and ligament relate to one another and there was my answer. You see our bodies are a complex, connected, moving machine. Muscles work similar to bungee cords – move it and it stretches, bends, rotates, then bounces back to its original position. But what if that bungee cord falters? What if it stays stretched? Well – then that cord is going to start to pull the bridge it’s attached to, downward. And the bridge pulls the cliffsides inward. If not corrected – the whole thing would eventually give and collapse. That was my back…spasming and hating life at the bottom of a ravine. All because my IT Band failed to bounce back.
Now I know it’s not all due to my IT Band. But its connection to my TFL and my Gluts pulled my pelvis out of its ideal position. And my back muscles had to respond to keep my body stable and going ninety-miles an hour each day. Eventually, my back tired and gave out. Pretty simple really…even as painful as it was. So now, I roll out my IT Bands, hamstrings and deep Gluteal muscles; I stretch and exercise; I keep moving.
So get in touch with your Iliotibial band…keep it in tune….and rock your health (no, I could not escape the musical metaphor.)
If you need a massage to help workout some of the aches and pains, you can schedule a massage with our experienced massage therapists.