Checking for tightness has often been reserved as a passive, “I need to see someone” task. And although this is often the case, there are a few life hacks that allow you to self-assess and forego a copay.
In lieu of an Iliotibial Band (ITB) epidemic that has stricken Buffalo, NY, I thought I would offer a quick self-check that could foreshadow a nasty, often nagging problem in the next few weeks. I wish I could point my finger and one specific cause: transition to outdoor running, new shoes, or another glaring issue; however, I have yet to see a correlation in mechanism from one patient to the next. Sure, there are consistencies at an impairment level (weakness, tightness, or imbalance), but again, no explanation why 14 patients walk through in 10 days, while the usual number hovers around a few per month.
Without delving into the cause and symptoms of ITBS (for that same reiterated response throw a Google Search out there), I find it more beneficial for you to understand a few often overlooked aspects of this thick, fibrous band.
The ITB is an extension of your glute maximius and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle and runs laterally down the leg, reaching out to grab the patella before continuing onto the tibia. More importantly, you should understand that while your knee bends and straightens the ITB shifts back and forth over a bony projection on the femur (thigh bone). An interface known as a bursa sac separates your ITB from bone. In the presence of tightness, weakness, or spasm, the ITB will drag along the bony ledge and snap over the bursa sac. Imagine drawing your finger across a guitar string. As you pull across the string bends until it slides under your finger and snaps. With every snap comes friction and irritation. Eventually, you’re left limping through your run and unable descend a flight of stairs.
In a clinical setting we determine the length of the ITB via the ‘Ober’s Test.’ It’s a quick, easy way to assess length but unfortunately, you cannot perform it solo. While Ober’s Test has been researched and remains a clinical favorite during evaluation, my little test is simply based off anatomy and clinical experience. Best yet, you can do it from home. Bust out your foam roll and get crackin’.
Learn More & How to Self-Assess
If you’re looking for more information about foam rolling your ITB, TFL, Glutes, etc, take a look at our foam rolling section. First, remember that ITB may be tight and causing your symptoms, but it’s generally caused by weakness elsewhere. Foam rolling and restoring length to this tissue is important, but will likely be short-lived if you don’t address the primary causes.