Whether you’re a runner, a cyclist, or just an active person in general, you’ve probably experienced a nagging leg pain that just doesn’t seem to let up. That painful, tightening sensation you think is due to hip or knee problems might be caused by your IT band.

The IT band is a thick connective tissue that connects to the hip, thigh muscles, and gluteus muscles. If these muscles are weak and overworked, the IT band will start to feel painful and tight. In some cases the IT band becomes inflamed when overused, developing into Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or ITBS.  

What is ITBS?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome, also known as ITBS, is an overuse injury of the iliotibial band that can develop from several underlying issues, and the symptoms can vary by patient. Check out the video below for more information about the many causes and symptoms of ITBS.

Athletes in high-mobility sports like running, cycling, and football are at a high risk for ITBS due to the constant movement and stress on the legs. Most people with IT band pain can still do these activities, choosing to ignore the pain. Unfortunately, IT band issues that are not treated can lead to more serious injuries in the future. You’ll begin overcompensating the loss of strength in one leg by pushing the other leg harder.  With the balance of weight now relying on the opposite leg, you’re not doing your body any favors by pushing past the pain.

Instead of trying to overcompensate or ignore the pain, follow the tips below to relax your muscles and get some relief.

ITBS Pain Relief

Because most forms of IT band pain occur due to tightness or weakness in the surrounding muscle, foam rolling these muscles can alleviate tightness and pain. Below we’ve compiled a few simple techniques you can do with a foam roller for quick ITBS pain relief. You can also find more exercises for strengthening the muscles and avoiding ITBS or IT band pain here.

Foam Rolling Techniques

The IT band is a tough, rigid tissue that provides stability to knee and hip movements, thus foam rolling directly over the IT band is not a proven method for ITBS pain relief. Instead, try focusing your efforts on the muscles attached to the IT band: the quads, hamstrings, and gluteus muscles.

  • Foam Rolling Quadriceps

    • Balance on elbows in the plank position with the quads on the foam roller.
    • Roll from just above the knee cap to the top of the thigh.
    • Use your core muscles to scan up and down the legs. Be careful not to round or arch the lumbar spine.
    • Scan for tender spots and hold until pain diminishes.
    • To place a greater emphasis on one leg, cross over the back of the other leg or simply shift body weight to one side.
    • Isolate all three areas of the quadriceps: Neutral, Internal Rotation, and External Rotation.
    • Roll for 6 – 8 passes over each area.

Foam Roll Quads - ITBS Pain Relief

  • Foam Rolling Hamstrings

    • Balance on hands, roll from the glutes to just above the back of the knee.
    • Scan for tender spots and hold until pain diminishes.
    • Isolate medial and lateral hamstrings on the end of the foam roller by rotating your leg to point your toe inside and outside.
    • Emphasize one side by crossing your legs at the knee.
    • Stabilize yourself by putting one leg down, if necessary.
    • Roll for 6 – 8 passes over the hamstrings.

Foam Roll Hamstrings - ITBS pain relief

  • Foam Rolling Glutes

    1. Sit on a foam roller and place your ankle over the opposite knee.
    2. Tilt to the side of the bent knee, focusing on one glute at a time.
    3. Balance with your hands and opposite foot.
    4. Scan for tender spots and hold until pain diminishes.
    5. Roll from top to bottom of glutes for 6 – 8 passes.
    6. Cross opposite ankle over knee and repeat steps 1-5 for the opposite side.

Foam Roll Quads - ITBS Pain ReliefFoam Roll Quads 2 - ITBS Pain Relief

When you foam roll, slow down so you can get deep enough into the muscles. Relaxing those muscles and improving blood flow requires slow and controlled efforts. Focus on your breathing and be patient.

Got ITBS Pain?

Your legs are key components to your body’s mobility and power, but if you don’t properly warm up, exercise, and recover, you could end up with an injury like ITBS. If you’ve tried the above foam rolling techniques and strength exercises, and you’re still searching for ITBS pain relief, contact Airrosti today. Our providers can pinpoint the source of your pain and use a targeted treatment plan to eliminate pain fast, so you can get back to your daily activities pain free.

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