Foam rollering your ITB – By Physio4Life Senior Physiotherapist, Victoria Samson

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Foam rollering your ITB

So you may be well acquainted with your foam roller and have a routine already in place.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to remind those who have theirs collecting dust in a corner somewhere to get using it again or perhaps give some background to those who exercise and have never used one before.  It’s actually a very simple and effective  way of preventing common niggles from exercise, particularly at the knee.

The foam roller is a hard cylindrical foam contraption designed to be used to help self massage and release myofascial tension and adhesions in the bodys soft tissue.  Ultimately this will help to improve muscle and connective  tissue flexibility and mobility.

I believe that foam rollering the iliotibial band (ITB) is a must for all runners but is also very beneficial for those who cycle, do lower limb strengthening or any other sport or exercise whereby loading of the legs is involved.

The ITB is a large, tough and strong piece of connective tissue running down the outside of the thigh and connects into the knee cap.  It is meant to be taut.  However, excessive tension and irregularity in the distribution of tension along its course may be problematic, cause pain and effect how the hip and knee function during movement.

Tips for foam rollering;

1.)    It’s going to hurt, this is normal, especially if you are not used to it.  Try to hold pressure over the painful bits for 20 seconds.  On the really sore bits, back away slightly and work on the surrounding tissue.   It will gradually improve the more you roller.

2.)    Rollering is a bit misleading as you don’t need to race up and down the side of your leg. Go slowly, working down the length of the ITB between just below the hip and just above the knee.

3.)    Your posture and form using the roller is important too, it’s almost like holding a side plank, therefore you should be thinking about your core and shoulder blade position whilst working on the ITB.  This will make its use even more effective and prevent you getting a painful shoulder or lower back.

4.)    How often should you roller is dependent on how much physical activity you do but I seem to think consistency is key.  I certainly think that after every run or cycle is good.  However, rollering 3 times a week and sticking to it is a good start.  For the ITB alone I would reckon on 2-4 minutes for each leg, if you can bear it!

Obviously the foam roller can be used to release many other areas.  However, one last tip, never roller your lower back.

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