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Self-Massage Mistakes All Runners Need To Avoid!

Burning pain on the outside of the thigh can trigger hip and knee pain, and make your whole body tightly wound. Learning how to relieve this build up of tension to this web of fascia can be life-changing, and accelerate your recovery to do the things you love to do.

Join me this week as we plunge into the anatomy and function of the iliotibial band, and I'll also share a simple self-massage trick to help get faster relief.

Wait! If you've not had chance to download your free copy of my newest book The 15-Step Playbook for Pain Relief, click on the book image and download your digital copy now.

Common Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome

- Knee, hip and back pain - Aching, burning, or tenderness on the outside of your knee.

- Feeling a click, pop, or snap on the outside of your knee.

- Pain up and down your leg.

- Warmth and redness on the outside of your knee.

Anatomy of the IT Band

This band is essentially an extension of fascia from the gluteus maximus on the posterior of the body and the tensor fascia latae on the anterior of the body. Arising from the iliac crest of the pelvis it attaches to the tibia. It's primary role is to stabilize the knee when in extension. When the knee is flexed, the IT band is located behind the femoral epicondyle, a bony outcropping of the femur at the knee joint. The IT band moves forward across the condyle when the knee is extended. There is a sac or bursa that allows the band to glide smoothly across the condyle, but should inflammation occur in this area, the increased friction from repeatedly rubbing the iliotibial band across the bony condyle can cause pain.

The trochanteric bursa is also another important bursal sac to know about. It lies on the outer edge of the greater trochanter of the femur bone and if you are not aware of it's location and how superficial it is, you may be irritating it through rolling too aggressively upon it.

The Common Self-Massage Mistakes

When I teach my patient's how to self-massage, I recommend to find a suitable roller that provides a depth they can feel and sustain. If you explore my tutorial video below, you'll see how I position myself to get the most amount of leverage using my upper body and to also ensure enough pressure to elicit the massage effect.

Foam rollers come in a variety of thicknesses, lengths and surfaces (smooth, knobbly). In the photo below for my video, you'll see a blue roller. This is one of my preferred tools called a Travel Roller. It's easy to carry around due to it's lightweight composition and size. The white foam roller is my next choice. Following this would be percussive massager such as a Theragun.

Ensure that you understand the anatomy of the area you are trying to massage, in this case the IT band. You can use the bony landmarks of your body to help narrow down the areas you wish to work, and especially for the IT band, you would need to avoid the bony protuberance on the outside of the hip called the greater trochanter. Below the surface of the skin and the IT band, is the trochanteric bursa, which if enough continued massage pressure is applied can irritate and causing swelling to this fluid sac.

As an RMT, I have a reputation for working deep into the muscle tissues to help alleviate the build up of stress, tension and pain. The next common mistake with self-massaging, is the lack of sufficient pressure to create a similar effect to having a professional work on your muscles. The analogy I like to use, is that if you pick up a creased shirt from your ironing pile, you can stretch it and temporarily remove the creases. However, the crease returns when you release the stretch. The best way to remove the creases, is to apply enough PRESSURE and HEAT to the garment and voila, the crease has disappeared.

Now it would be great if we could do one or two passes on our IT band and get relief but this is where the next common mistake arises. You may not be performing the self-massage for the right amount of duration and frequency.

The general recommendation is the more pain you have, the more massage you need!

If you are symptomatic, then I suggest three times a day to perform the self-massage of the IT band. If you are simply working preventatively, then once per day would be enough and monitor if you feel as though it needs more attention such as after a long walk, run or having sat at work for the day, or been driving for an hour or longer.

The last mistake to consider is if you are supporting your self-massage of the IT band with other related self-massage methods, stretches and corrective exercises. Fortunately, I've created, and continue to add each week, a series of instructional videos on YouTube (click to subscribe) to help you relieve your muscle stress, tension and pain. Here is a short list of my related blog articles to help support todays self-massage for the IT band.

Restoring Balance in 5-Steps

  1. Move - increase your body temperature and blood flow to all your muscles.

  2. Massage - using a lacrosse ball or foam roller to agitate the muscles.

  3. Mobilize - move the joints in their full range of motion.

  4. Stretch - focus on lengthening the short-tight muscles.

  5. Corrective Exercise - focus on strengthening the long-weak muscles.

Enjoy this weeks video and start relieving your back, hip and knee pain!

Any questions, you can reach me at my clinic by phone: 403 589 4645 or email:

Please help me on my mission to relieve stress, tension and pain. Share this anyone you know that would benefit from this blog article :)

Yours In Muscle Health,

Jason Barlow, RMT

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