There are around 700 muscles in the human body and at any one time, you’re using a mixture of them. We don’t really think about our muscles until we have an injury, but our muscles allow us to consciously move our limbs, move around, and chew our food. What’s more, they manage processes that we don’t even think about, including heart pumping, and moving food through our guts.
There are some muscles that you’ll probably not know about unless you’ve been studying the body (like we do) or training for an event or sport.
The IT band is one of those muscles that you’ve probably heard about, but don’t truly understand, so here it is, laid bare for you.
What’s your IT band?
IT band is the shortened name for the iliotibial band. Your IT band is a tendinous band that originates from your iliac crest (hip bone) and also attaches in the gluteus maximus (bum muscle) and the TFL (tensor fascia latae muscle in the hip).
Your IT band runs down the length of your leg from hip to knee and therefore plays a big part in almost any sport or exercise that you do.
How can it affect you?
Like all muscles, the IT band will occasionally need some attention.
If your IT band is strained under pressure, then it can pull on the knee and cause pain from your hip down to your knee and anywhere in-between. As with most muscles, the effects can often be found away from the muscle that’s struggling or is under pressure. Our work is like detective work when we find out what’s really happening!
What causes tight IT bands?
There are many times in the human body where you can think you have a problem with one area, and you actually have an issue in another. The IT band itself doesn’t really tighten up. It’s actually caused by other muscles. When you have a tight IT band, it tends to be the muscles that it originates from that tighten; putting strain on the band and causing the sensation of the tightness in the band to form.
When can it affect you?
You’re probably aware of the existence of an IT band thanks to a sport and we know this because of how an IT band can affect you, and thus when you’re likely to come looking for information on it.
IT bands can become tight when you do a sport that consists of a persistent amount of flexion and extension of the knee. A typical sport for this is running or cycling, although active gym goers are more likely to suffer from this from the myriad machines and running and cycling machines accessible to them.
How can you help or improve your IT band?
With a tight IT band (the muscles around it) you’ll find you have less movement or flexibility than you’d like. So here are some ways to help.
Stretching: Stretching your muscles so that you stretch your TFL and the glutes will help a lot.
Foam rolling: Foam rolling is great for a lot of muscle work and an IT band it perfect for this. Sometimes you can foam roll the actual band however this can be uncomfortable as you put a lot of weight on it as you roll up and down on your side. If that’s too painful then look at again rolling the TFL and the glutes instead.
Need more help?
We deal with muscles all day long and we’re highly trained to spot when you have a problem and where that problem is actually coming from. Tried a few home help tips and need a professional set of eyes – or hands? Contact us now.