Foam Rollers IT Band: Exposing the Truth

You’re not alone if you perform foam rollers IT band exercises, as a lot of people believe this is the correct way to ease soreness or tightness in the area. Feeling a burn and plenty of pain definitely means its working, right?

I’m here to tell you that the IT band is not actually a muscle, and therefore foam rolling could help temporarily if done correctly, but could also make the pain worse! The IT band (iliotibial band) is actually a tough, fibrous tissue that runs from your hip to your knee, helping to keep your lower body moving properly. Foam rollers are made for your muscles, not your connective tissues.

When you execute foam rollers IT band exercises you don’t actually relax it, as it isn’t a muscle and it doesn’t contract in the first place. IT band foam rolling regularly can irritate and inflame the tissue in that area, therefore essentially causing more problems.

However, if you feel like that particular area is tight, it might be the muscles surrounding the IT band that are the issue. These muscles include the glutes and quads, which you can safely use a foam roller on. If these muscles tighten, they can pull on the IT band, making it seem like the IT band itself is the problem. You can also perform certain stretches for this part of the leg to help with tightness.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use a foam roller on your IT band at all. You can however, use a vibrating foam roller on the lowest setting on the IT band. This can temporarily increase the knee and hip joints’ range of motion. BUT make sure to keep it on the lowest setting and gently roll, making sure you don’t do this too regularly, more as just a one off treatment every now and then.

How to use a foam roller on the IT band correctly:

  • Lay on your side and place the vibrating foam roller under your leg.
  • Steady yourself with your forearm placed flat with the elbow directly under your shoulder.
  • On the lowest setting, slowly roll up and down the side of the leg from the hip to the knee, not going too far down or too far up to the joints.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

If you’re getting mixed messages and quite honestly aren’t sure if you should foam roller your IT band or not, the best practice is to just listen to your body. If it hurts, stop. Don’t perform the exercise for too long or too hard. Foam rollers IT band exercises might look like something you have to be doing, but just focusing on the actual muscle groups will also help the leg as a whole, and put you at less risk of tissue damage!