Most of us are only familiar with the Iliotibial Band (IT Band) if it has felt tight and sore. It was probably at that time you may have heard that you have an unruly and tight tensor fascia latae, more commonly know as the TFL.
While the name does sounds like latin for “a lot of tense fascia”, with the ability to flex, abduct, and internally rotate the hip, it’s not surprising that this muscle is famous for taking on more than it can chew.
The TFL, however, is only one of several muscles that attach to the IT Band. The others include the gluteus maximus and medius, the tibialis anterior, and the peroneus longus (remember this one for later). Any or all of these muscles (and possibly a bunch of others) might be implicated with IT Band pain or tightness. How do we figure out which might need release and which might need strength?
Wanting to be a more precise teacher has always driven my course of study and last year, I attended the Level 1 training of movement assessment protocol, called NeuroKinetic Therapy®. I can now no longer assume that if a muscle feels “tight” that it is in fact, “facilitated” (or neurologically connected) and needs to be released. When we learned the test for the tensor fascia latae, I was shocked to learn that my right, chronically “tight” TFL couldn’t hold up to the assessment. In other words, it was “inhibited” (neurologically disconnected), which meant, even though it was sore, trying to roll out that soreness might inhibit it even more. This was surprising because I always thought my sore IT bands were due to an overactive TFL and an underactive gluteus medius. This is a common pairing (and to be fair, probably still true for me), but was not the whole pattern.
One of the basic assessments in the NKT® protocol is a Single-Leg Stance (SLS) test. It was this assessment that gave me a clue into where to look to rebalance the muscles that support the IT Band for pain relief.
Here’s a video of David Weinstock, founder NKT® demonstrating this test on his daughter:
The SLS assessment is exactly like it sounds – you stand on one leg and you get a sense of which direction you tend to fall. Very often you’ll fall toward the same direction no matter which foot you are standing on. Say for example that you fall to the left when you are standing on your right foot. Maybe you feel your right arch collapsing, your hip jutting out to the right, and maybe even a little pain somewhere along your IT band.
As I mentioned above, another muscle that affects the tension balance of the IT band is the peroneus longus. The dead give away in the above example is the tendency for the right foot to roll inward or pronate. The peroneals are some of the few muscles that actively create pronation in the foot (gravity does the rest).
If the peroneals are facilitated and the TFL is inhibited, it is possible that the TFL is not able to hold up its end of the line is because the peroneals are doing too much work. One way to self-assess this is to plantar flex and evert (the main two actions of the peroneus longus) the suspect foot a few times to fire up the peroneals and then re-do the balance test. If your balance gets worse, you can start to assume there’s a relationship between the two.
I bet you are wondering what to do now that you realized some overly active ankle muscles might be throwing off your balance. This is where Yoga Tune Up® and NKT blend wonderfully, allowing you to be precise and on-target with your Yoga Tune Up® releases and exercises. Check back on Friday for some great YTU® tips and tricks to rebalance your IT Band.
- Kendall, F.P. ; McCreary, E.K; Provance, P.G.; Rodgers, M.M.; Romani, W.A. (2005). Muscles Testing and Function with Posture and Pain, 5th Edition. Baltimore: Lippincott William & Wilkins.
- Lavine, R. (2010). Iliotibial band friction syndrome. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 3(1-4), 18–22. doi:10.1007/s12178-010-9061-8
- Miller, J. (2014). The roll model: A step-by-step guide to erase pain, improve mobility, and live better in your body. Las Vegas: Victory Belt.