By Justin Farrell, Certified Rolfer
Your IT bands are tight? Good… they should be!
Foam rolling directly on the IT (iliotibial) band can be painful and yield short-lived and disappointing results.
The IT band is composed of layers and layers of thick connective tissues that are intended to provide lateral stability in your movements. These anatomical structures quite literally hold the leg together and are support for some of the largest muscle groups in the body, the hamstrings and quadriceps. Powerful movements such as running and jumping wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the tension in the IT bands. They are formed as they are for a reason! Let’s take a look at what not to do and what to spend more time focusing on when working with the IT bands and the foam roller.
What not to do… 1. Roll to the point of pain – The IT bands are very sensitive and often in our no pain, no gain society we interpret pain as a confirmation that it must be “too tight.” Your IT bands ARE structurally “tight” – it is part of their anatomical significance. Finding sensitivities is educational but don’t go looking for pain. 2. Apply direct pressure, or mash – If rolling your IT band hurts, it does not mean you need more of it. Rolling to the point of pain and continuing to do so is thinking in circles (“it hurts to roll my IT band, it must be tight, I need to roll it more, even though it hurts… I obviously need it, because it hurts”). This is basic denial of your anatomy and takes you further away from personal embodiment and therefore your own healing journey. What to do instead…
1. Use gentle and slow pressure to bring conscious awareness to the area, learn about your sensitivities and respect them.
2. Focus more on rolling the muscle groups around the IT band rather than the IT band itself. Slowly and intentionally foam roll along the glutes, the tensor fascia latae (TFL) as well as the muscular edges of the IT band where the hamstring and quad compartments arise. As compared to the IT band, these muscle groups contain more blood flow, sensory neurons and mechanoreceptors that respond well to thoughtful pressure. Understand that in changing the structures around the IT band you will also affect the IT band itself.
3. If you are still not getting relief, work with A Rolfer or manual therapist who can apply an oblique angle and a sensitive touch to access depth without pain and provide an experience of the many functional tissue layers of the IT band.
Justin Farrell, a Colorado native, is a Certified Rolf Practitioner from the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration® in Boulder, CO. He also holds a B.S. in Psychology from Colorado State University. Justin serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Structural Integrators® (IASI).
Justin was led to a career as a Rolfer™ to provide a manual therapy which addresses the root cause of symptoms to create more long term change in the health of body and mind. He works to free restrictions in the connective tissue matrix, therefore improving posture and creating more smoothly functioning relationships in the body. Client participation is incorporated into Rolfing® sessions to retrain the brain to find easy and energy-efficient movement. He enjoys guiding clients to subtle yet profound experiences by utilizing strong communication skills. Rolfing® Structural Integration (SI) is not painful and may bring dramatic results including injury recovery, pain reduction, stress relief, sleep improvement, increased flexibility and freedom of movement, headache relief and better balance and ease. Justin works to meet individual goals with the understanding that true and honest change comes from within.