What is the IT Band?

Image Credit: BodyHeal.com.au

The IT Band is a band of dense fascia (connective tissue) that begins at your hip and extends all the way down just past your knee joint. It’s crucial in stablizing the knee during running or walking and is frequently linked to ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) or runners knee. Using a foam roller is an excellent way to prevent injury and help with recovery. Thousands of athletes swear by it, especially runners. However, the science is sketchy at best and there are those in medical field who believe foam rolling your IT Band is actually detrimental. And while those who believe this are definitely the minority, it’s important to remember at one time smoking was thought to have a positive impact in the fight against asthma. Just a little frame of reference for ya’!

Issues with Self Myofascial Release for the IT Band

There are two major problems with the research related to using a foam roller to treat ITBS:

  1. Every research article I’ve read to date is completely inconclusive. While most argue that ITBS is caused by a tight IT Band, this article from PubMed Central, suggests there is reason to believe it could be caused by a loose IT Band. 
  2. The physics and biology surrounding this topic are equally murky. Is it really possible to loosen (or tighten) a dense slab of connective tissue using a foam roller (or any technique for that matter)? I personally, don’t think so.

To Roll or Not to Roll

As I mentioned at the top, I’m a big believer in using a foam roller to help relieve runners knee, but you want to do it the right way. You can roll your IT Band if you want, but I would actually suggest you focus on the muscular attachments to the IT Band (i.e. glutes and TFL) if you want ITBS relief.  I’ve done extensive reading on the subject and although everything I’ve read has essentially been unable to firmly answer whether or not I should be rolling my IT Band, I’m convinced we should be focusing more on the muscles connected to it. It’s not a piece of tissue that can lengthen or stretch. But that’s just my opinion, many think otherwise.

Regardless of what you decide, I definitely caution against spending too much time rolling out the IT Band, while neglecting other areas of the body. This can create an imbalance and lead to injuries. Ultimately the end goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of injuries in order to spend less time rehabbing and more time doing whatever it is you enjoy doing.