It has been assumed that the primary purpose of the Ilio Tibial Band (ITB) was to provide lateral stabilization. However, recent research, including studies from Catherine Eng, summarized in the Harvard Gazette tells a different story.
The ITB connects the Gluteus Maximus (GMax), the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) to the lower leg (tibialis anterior and tibia). This large piece of fascia originates from the outside of the buttock, crest of the hip (ileum) the and outside of the upper thigh and runs down the outside of the leg, attaching below the knee. The ITB is basically a long, flat tendon. It may well have a role in stability – tests with cadavers have shown that tremendous machine generated forces only lengthen the ITB by just 1-2mm!
Eng explains that the front part of the ITB stretches as the leg swings backward, storing elastic energy. That stored energy is released as the leg swings forward during a stride, returning energy. The back portion of the ITB stretches as the leg swings forward and returns energy as the leg extends backward. These dynamic stretches are driven by movement and make substantial changes to the tissue over time.
In athletes, the shortened ITB is said to rub over the femoral condyle on the outside of the knee (or sometimes near the hip) and becomes inflamed. Typically, this can be triggered by anatomical differences, over-training and other training errors. Some pain may come from tension on the upper and lower attachments of the ITB itself.
Different considerations apply for the general, less athletic population. Imagine a 58 year old woman who has not exercised much over the years and has become less flexible. She walks regularly and has developed signs of ITB. Chances are that her gait has shortened; her leg just doesn’t go into significant extension or flexion at the hip anymore.
This means that the rear part of the ITB is not stretching dynamically as her leg swings forward and the front part isn’t stretching as the leg swings backward. In our subject, a shortened gait translates into a shortened ITB that can rub across the femoral epicondyle and become irritated – just as for the over-training athlete.
Increasing the stride will dynamically stretch and gradually lengthen the ITB and reduce inflammation. Given the strength of the ITB, you simply cannot lengthen the ITB with any type of static stretches.
Self Care Treatment
Prior to each of these gentle, passive stretches trigger points in the muscles should be cleared with self-compression using a tennis ball or other tool. This is not an exhaustive list of muscles that might contribute to ITB pain or to a shortened stride but may be useful as a starting point.
Rectus Femoris stretch – This is the only quad that crosses the hip and can restrict hip extension.
TFL stretch – As an assistive hip flexor we want movement here.
Hamstring stretch – This is the primary limitation of the leg swinging forward.
Spinal erector stretch – Often recruited by weak glutes to assist with extension of the thigh at the hip.
Rectus abdominis stretch – The superficial abs become tight, hindering full leg extension.
Gluteus maximus – Provides dynamic stretch on the front ITB as the leg extends.
Gluteus medius – Stabilizes the hip and assures proper operation of the TFL.
Transversus Abdominis –Reduces static load on the spinal erectors and glutes.
Success in any specific maneuver is less important than lengthening the stride. Some may find that pain or other limitations in their knees, hips and low back limit their ability to comfortable perform this entire routine. If so, modify as needed.
We want to stretch the front and back aspects of the IT band AND strengthen the muscles that will help maintain that stretch as you walk with a longer and stronger stride.
If you think you are having IT band pain, you may find that a session or two to identify and treat root causes of your individual case is helpful.
Extra – Anatomy of TFL and Glutes
Those with TrPs in the TFL muscle may describe pain in the hip joint radiating down along the outside of the thigh, sometimes extending as a far the knee. Some have used the term ‘pseudo-trochanteric bursitis’ to describe this pain.
If you have TrPs in the TFL muscle you are likely to have trouble sitting for extended periods of time, especially if your hip is flexed 90 degrees or more. You may also notice pain as you transition from sitting to standing.
Lying on the affected side is painful because of pressure directly on the tender area, near the head of the femur. Lying on the opposite without a pillow between the legs may also be uncomfortable because of prolonged stretch of the affected TFL.
Trigger points in the TFL can be caused by sudden trauma, such as landing on from high jump. More often if comes from chronic overload, such as jogging up and down hill without support for a pronated foot.
In general, extended walking or running on uneven surfaces can activate tensor fascia latae TrPs because they force one foot into pronation and the other into supination and have a compensatory effect on your knees and hips.
Poor conditioning and inadequate warmups can lead to injuries that activate or perpetuate TrPs in the TFL muscle. Weakness or inhibition of the gluteus medius or gluteus minimus can cause overload of the TFL because they act together to stabilize the hip.
As with other muscles, the tensor fascia latae are aggravated by immobilization in the shortened position for extended periods of time. For example, this happens during prolonged sitting or sleeping on your side with your hips tightly flexed. Walking with heavy loads can also overload this muscle.
The pain of tensor fascia latae trigger points is very similar to TrPs from the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and vastus lateralis muscles. Trigger points from the quadratus lumborum can also refer to the hip.
Trigger points in the TFL can occur in isolation, but more frequently they develop in relation to TrPs in the anterior gluteus minimus and the related rectus femoris, iliopsoas, or sartorius muscles.
In particular, active TrPs in the gluteus minimus must be released to allow the complete range of motion needed for trigger points in the TFL to release.
The tensor fasciae latae assist with flexion, abduction, and internal rotation of your hip. It also a tensor of the fascia lata; continuing its action, the oblique direction of its fibers enables it to stabilize the hip in extension (assists gluteus maximus during hip extension).
The fascia lata is a fibrous sheath that encircles the thigh like a subcutaneous stocking and tightly binds its muscles. On the lateral surface, it combines with the tendons of the gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae to form the iliotibial tract, which extends from the iliac crest to the lateral condyle of the tibia.
In the erect posture, acting from below with the gluteus medius and gluteus minimis, it will serve to steady the pelvis upon the head of the femur; and by means of the iliotibial tract it steadies the condyles of the femur on the articular surfaces of the tibia. However, it also assists the gluteus maximus in supporting the knee in a position of extension.
In fact, the front, inner portion of the muscle and the rear, outer portion are active at different times and for different reasons. The front section of the TFL is most active during the swing portion of the gait, when the hip is flexing. By coupling the with the IT band, force is also stored to assist in the return of the leg.
The rear fibers assist the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus in stabilizing the pelvis and the tendency of the opposing hip to drop during mid-stance (swing phase for the opposite leg). The are also active at heel-strike when running and climbing stairs or ladders.
The basic functional movement of tensor fasciae latae is walking. The tensor fasciae latae is heavily utilized in horse riding, hurdling and water skiing. Some problems that arise when this muscle is tight or shortened are pelvic imbalances that lead to pain in hips, as well as pain in the lower back and lateral area of knees.
Because of its insertion point on the lateral condyle of the tibia, it also aids in the lateral rotation of the tibia. This lateral rotation may be initiated in conjunction with hip abduction and medial rotation of the femur while kicking a soccer ball. The tensor fasciae latae works in synergy with the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles to abduct and medially rotate the femur.
The TFL is a hip abductor muscle. To stretch the tensor fasciae latae, the knee may be brought medially across the body (adducted). If one leans against a wall with crossed legs (externally/laterally rotated hips) and pushes the pelvis away from the wall (leaning the upper body towards it) sidebending the lumbar spine (i.e.: curving the spine to the side) should be avoided as it stretches the lumbar region rather than the tensor fasciae latae and other muscles which cross the hip rather than the spine.
The tensor fasciae latae is a muscle of the thigh. Together with the gluteus maximus, it acts on the iliotibial band and is continuous with the iliotibial tract, which attaches to the tibia. The muscle assists in keeping the balance of the pelvis while standing, walking, or running.
It arises from the anterior part of the outer lip of the iliac crest; from the outer surface of the anterior superior iliac spine, and part of the outer border of the notch below it, between the gluteus medius and sartorius; and from the deep surface of the fascia lata.
It is inserted between the two layers of the iliotibial tract of the fascia lata about the junction of the middle and upper thirds of the thigh. The tensor fasciae latae tautens the iliotibial tract and braces the knee, especially when the opposite foot is lifted. The terminal insertion point lies as far as the lateral condyle of the tibia.
Tensor fasciae latae is innervated by the superior gluteal nerve, L5 and S1. At its origins of the anterior rami of L4, L5, and S1 nerves, the superior gluteal nerve exits the pelvis via greater sciatic foramen superior to the piriformis. The nerve also courses between the gluteus medius and minimus. The superior gluteal artery also supplies the tensor fasciae latae. The superior gluteal nerve arises from the sacral plexus and only has muscular innervation associated with it. There is no cutaneous innervation for sensation that stems from the superior gluteal nerve.
Trigger points in the gluteus maximus can refer pain and other symptoms to the sacrum and tailbone area, the lower buttock and the upper, outside area, near the hip.
Unlike the radiating referrals of the other glutes, TrPs in the gluteus maximus tend to remain local.
You may experience pain when sitting if you have gluteus maximus trigger points; trying to avoid pressure or lean to the opposite site. You may squirm in your seat to avoid discomfort.
Gluteus maximus TrPs can also cause pain when walking, especially uphill. The forward lean of your trunk can overload the gluteus maximus. These symptoms can be similar to a sacroiliac inflammation.
Pain from TrPs in this muscle can be intensified by vigorous contractions of a muscle that is already shortened. For instance, kicking while swimming, can cause this, especially in cold water.
The explosive starts that are typical of tennis, beach volleyball, or sprints can overload your gluteus maximus, resulting in symptoms that are similar to an upper hamstring strain.
Pain in the buttocks can also be caused by lumbar disc and facet pathologies, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, coccynynia or hip joint problems.
However, some diagnosed with trochanteric bursitis, including those treated successfully with a local anesthetic, actually have gluteus maximus TrPs that area.
You can perform self-pressure release with a Backknobber, a lacrosse ball or tennis ball. If your glutes are very sensitive, you may even need to start with a larger fitness ball. If you can, try holding up your weight to moderate the pressure between the floor and your glutes. If you find it more comfortable, you can apply the same technique against a wall.
Hold pressure for 15-25 seconds, repeating for up to six repetitions. This can be done as up to every two to three hours, as long as your symptoms are still being relieved. Be cautious not to use too much pressure. This can activate or perpetuate trigger points.
If you have gluteus maximus TrPs you should avoid prolonged sitting. If you work with a computer, you should request an ergnonomic assessment and modifications to your workstation.
It is best to have a desk that is adjustable between standing and sitting, with a chair to match. It should also have adjustable arm rests and lumbar supports. Pay special attention to the fabric and padding of the seat. Move frequently!
Side sleeping with the painful side up and a thick pillow between your knees can reduce symptoms and improve sleep quality.
Associated trigger points can develop in the referral zone of a primary TrP. This can be because the muscle is related as a functional synergist or antagonist or because the muscles share innervation or proximity.
For example, muscles in the referred pain zone of gluteus maximus include: piriformis, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, quadratus lumborum, obturators, gemelli, coccygeus, adductor magnus and proximal hamstrings.
There are other muscles that refer pain into the buttock that should also be assessed. It is possible that the gluteus maximus TrP is actually secondary. These include iliocostalis lumborum, rectus abdominis, pelvic floor and soleus.
A strong antagonist like iliopsoas may require treatment. If full extension of the hip is limited due tightness of the psoas, releasing those TrPs may restore enough range of motion to fully treate the gluteus maximus trigger points.
Gluteus maximus is the primary extensor of the hip. It is assisted by some of the other glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors such as longissimus. We extend the hip with each step. Your hip extension is reduced if the glutes or hamstrings are inhibited. This, in turn, will place an additional burden on the spinal erectors with each step.
When your hip is in extension, your gluteus maximus can also rotate your leg externally. Like the other glutes, it is divided into two sections that act in opposite ways on abduction adduction of your thigh at the hip. The upper portion contributes to abduction and the lower portion contributes to abduction.
During functional activities like descending stairs, squatting, climbing or transitioning between sitting and standing, gluteus maximus controls flexion at your hip by contracting eccentrically. Along with your hamstrings, your glutes raise your trunk from flexion/bending over to standing upright.
When walking, gluteus maximus extends our thigh at the hip, pushing us forward.
However, like many of muscles of the legs and trunk, we miss the point if think about the specific actions of the gluteus maximus. Much of its function is really stabilization of the pelvis and trunk over the thigh when we are walking or running. As we walk faster or run, the activity of our gluteus maximus increases for both stabilization and forward movement.
Because it is an external rotator, gluteus maximus also helps counter the natural internal rotation of the lower leg during early stance phase of our gait. A different type of stabilizing function happens through ‘force closure’. An example of this is when the biceps femoris in the hamstring group controls the rotation of sacrum and hip bones through its own attachments at the same time that the gluteus maximus contracts eccentrically during hip extension to do the same.
The gluteus maximus (also known collectively with the gluteus medius and minimus, and sometimes referred to informally as the “glutes”) is the main extensor muscle of the hip. It is the largest and exterior-most of the three gluteal muscles and makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of each side of the hips. Its thick fleshy mass, in a quadrilateral shape, forms the prominence of the buttocks. Its average weight of 844g is more than twice that of the other glutes together and it often measures 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.
The gluteus maximus is larger and more extensive in humans than any other primate. In adapting to bipedal gait, reorganization of the attachment of the muscle as well as the moment arm was required. Some of these evolutionary changes include shortening and tilting of the pelvis to permit extension of the thigh, a more horizontal angulation of the muscle and significant enlargement compared to other primates.
This structure supports the upright posture and and bipedal walking of humans. Humans are the only mammal that can place the center of mass of our head, arms and torso over our hips. The evolutionary change presumably freed our hands for other activities are believed to be crucial to the development of manual dexterity and intelligence in humans.
The muscle is remarkably coarse in function and structure, made up of muscle fascicles lying parallel with one another, and collected together into larger fibrous bundles.
It arises from the posterior gluteal line of the inner upper pelvic bone, and roughly the portion of the bone including the crest of the hip bone, immediately above and behind it; and from the posterior surface of the lower part of the sacrum, the base of the spine, and the side of the coccyx, the tailbone; from the aponeurosis of the erector spinae (lumbodorsal fascia), the sacrotuberous ligament, and the fascia covering the gluteus medius (gluteal aponeurosis). The fibers are directed obliquely downward and lateralward; The gluteus maximus has two insertions:
- those forming the upper and larger portion of the muscle, together with the superficial fibers of the lower portion, end in a thick tendinous lamina, which passes across the greater trochanter, and inserts into the iliotibial band of the fascia lata;
- the deeper fibers of the lower portion of the muscle are inserted into the gluteal tuberosity between the vastus lateralis and adductor magnus.
Professional Treatment With Us
Janet was great. FANTASTIC person who knew how to treat and deal with my conditions. Very informative. Finally, someone who knew what I was talking about.
It was interesting, and helpful for my IT band and hip
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Seriously, if you are looking for massage therapy that actually does your body good–that changes its function for the better and actually makes pain go away–then this is the place you need to come. Not Massage Envy. Not a chiropractor. You need trigger point from knowledgeable experts in the craft.
If your have pain in any part of your body this is the place to go. It focus on the muscles where the pain is. you will feel like a new person. Awesome will be returning. Thanks nice friendly and attentive
I felt so much better after my appointment. Thank you and thanks for the self care tips!
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What a great experience. The provider was able to recommend things I can do to improve my pain. Address issues I didn’t even share with her that she was able to tell just by her exam and treating me for what i went for. Will be back. Feeling grateful
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Janet is very informative. I loved that she explained which muscles/groups she was working on. I learned a lot about my posture and why some of my muscles are not activating. She also provided me with a list of considerations and excercises to improve my posture. I will be back!
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It’s like an hour of physical therapy (the good parts of P.T. where they massage you and stretch you). She also takes time to explain some ways to help your specific issues. Highly recommend!
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What About My Pain?
Clearly, everyone is different. Many of us have additional challenges and complications. Naturally, we tailor our treatment plans to the individual. However, there are common foundations in this work with everyone.
Fortunately, if you are having similar issues, you may find that a just few treatment sessions helps! We will identify and treat root causes of your individual case.
Clearly, everyone is different. Many of us have additional challenges and complications. Naturally, we tailor our treatment plans to the individual. However, there are common foundations in this work with everyone.
We are licensed professionals. In addition, we all have additional training and certifications in advanced techniques. For instance, this includes trigger point therapy, fascial stretching, neuromuscular and movement therapy. Also we offer kinesio taping, myofascial release, cupping, acoustic compression, self-care classes and more. In fact, we often combine several of these techniques into a single session..
Of course, no one wants chronic pain! Fortunately, can work together with you to help sort out the issues.
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