Foam rolling has been a great addition to many athletes’ recovery strategies over the last few years. One of the most popular options is foam rolling the ITB for relief of anterior knee pain…however there is much debate amongst the physio community about whether it is effective or not.
First a bit of background on the ITB (iliotibial band)…it is a dense, fibrous band of connective tissue that runs from the pelvis to the lower leg connecting numerous muscles and primarily contributes to stability of the knee and hip joints, particularly during running.
It often feels tight and like it needs to be stretched! However this tight feeling is normally because it is already being overstretched (see cross over sign during running below).
The ITB does not specifically have any contractile tissue, such as found in muscles. Muscle fibres can respond very well to release / reducing tone with foam rolling. Rolling a muscle will feel sore at first then gradually get easier after about 90 seconds to 2 mins.
So this physio is definitely in the DON’T roll corner at the moment, for 2 reasons…
- Foam rolling the ITB is unlikely to increase it’s length and any pain relief is most likely to be temporary from inhibition of neural tissue rather than changing anything mechanical.
- Even if foam rolling did help to release or lengthen the ITB, this isn’t going to help runners control the movement at the hip and knee…ultimately this could make you worse in the long run!
- Focus on foam rolling tight muscles around the hip (such as gluteals or hip flexors)
- Work on strengthening the muscles that control the hip and knee rotation to prevent the ITB being overloaded in the first place!
Need to check if you have cross over signs…? book in with one of our physios for a Zebris Running Analysis.