foam roller

How to Foam Roll Your IT Band

Do you have knee pain when you run? The iliotibial band, commonly known as the IT Band, is a tendonous and fascial band that originates on the hipbone, travels down the outside of the leg and attaches to the top of the lower leg bone (the tibia). Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints, and provides support and protection. Think of fascia as shrink-wrap for your muscles! Once the shrink-wrap becomes tight, it tends to stay tight.

This tightness causes pain in the hip and knee area for runners. Usually, poor biomechanics or muscle imbalances contribute to IT pain. When the IT band shortens, the fascial band pulls the knee cap out of alignment, leading to inflammation in the joint and pain when bending the knee. This injury, known as IT band syndrome or runner's knee, is more common in women than men, most likely due to the wider female pelvis.

The good news? There are lots of ways to lessen IT band syndrome and ward off future problems: regular stretching, foam rolling (or self myofacial release), massage and icing. Massage promotes blood flow to the affected area and helps to minimize scar tissue formation. Treat yourself to a professional massage every once and while, but you can also do it yourself with a foam roller or massage stick anytime.

To help avoid knee pain and IT band injury, keep this thick band of fascia flexible, especially when you increase intensity and/or weekly mileage. Below is one of our favorite at-home ways to keep our IT bands healthy. We recommend that also you foam roll other major muscles groups invovled in running (we will highlight them throughout the month).

How to foam roll your IT Band:

Instructions: Lie on your side with the foam roller perpendicular to your body and below your hip. Bring the top leg in front of you and use it as leverage. Place your hands on the other side of the foam roller. Slowly begin to roll the foam roller down your leg, stopping just above the knee cap. As the roller moves down your leg, stop every 1-2 inches and rock your hips forward and backwards over the foam roller to release tension. Be gentle and breathe!

Recovery Tools

We are dedicating the month of April to recovery and to kick it off we are sharing our favorite recovery tools.

1 - The Stick - hurts so good. Great travel companion for long distance races.

2 - Trigger Point Foam Roller - the grids add a new dimension to foam rolling. Your IT band will never be the same again!

3 - MELT balls - we discovered the MELT Method thanks to Zoe of The Thriving Body in 2010. It's helped our feet and legs recovery quickly and ward off injury.

4 - Trigger Point rollers - deeper and more precise than the foam roller. The kit comes with a guidebook designed specifically for runners.

5 - Exercise bands - these guys help us keep our muscles strong and flexible. We use them for ankle, achilles and calf strength.

What's your favorite recovery tool? We love hearing suggestions from runners and active people!