Is Your IT Band Really Tight? Alternative 2
Your butt is more connected to your knee than you might think! Ensuring a healthy balance in your glutes can relieve IT Band tightness. We discussed in last week’s article all of the iliotibial band’s wonderful stabilizing functions and how stretching your tensor fascia lata might be the key to unlocking any tightness there. But your TFL isn’t always the problem. When that’s the case, look to the glutes!
It’s pretty common knowledge that butt muscle balance is super important to low back and hip health. It is less common to associate the gluteus maximus muscles with knee health. But take a look at how the glute max inserts into the ITB and it becomes much easier to imagine. An overly active butt can put excess strain on the ITB and pull on the knee similarly to what happens in the case of an overactive TFL.
Determining whether your glutes are too tight can be as simple as asking yourself, “Does it feel like I’m clenching my butt all of the time?” If you are looking for a more objective measurement try this:
Find a mirror in which you can see your hip bones and stand so you can see the side of your body on which your ITB feels sore
Place your hand on the pointy bone in the front of your hips (this is the ASIS or the anterior superior iliac spine)
Wither either the thumb of the same hand or using your other hand (whichever is most comfortable for you), walk along the rounded top of your hip bone toward your back until you find a similarly pointy bone. The PSIS or posterior superior iliac spine will be about level with where your sacrum first meets your hip bones
If your thumb or fingers over the PSIS are dropped lower than your fingers in the front, you have a posteriorly (backward) tilted pelvis and it is possible your glutes are working too hard
Keep in mind this is not a 100% accurate test as there are other factors that can contribute to a posterior pelvic tilt, but it can be used in conjunction with your subjective feeling to give you a good idea.
Was your test negative? Did your test show a neutral or an anterior (forward) pelvic tilt? Your glutes could still be part of the issue! Dormant Butt, Dead Butt, and Gluteal Amnesia are all terms used to describe inhibited or underactive glute max muscles. Inhibited glutes can contribute to low back pain and hip pain like facilitated glutes can, but they can also contribute to hip flexor tightness and foot, ankle, and knee pain. In fact, it is more likely that an underactive butt is causing your IT Band tightness as there is not enough tension to counterbalance the force asserted by the TFL and allow for optimal knee stabilization. Testing your glutes for activation even more simple than looking for your pelvic tilt. Lie flat on your back and squeeze your butt. Hold for 10 seconds. Done!
Were you able to maintain a consistent contraction? Did one of your glutes start to release before the other? Did it feel like it took a lot of effort to contract? If you answered no to the first question or yes to either the second or the third, one or both of your glutes might need some strengthening. But don’t go running off yet! There is one more piece to consider before you can officially say you have tested your glutes. We need to make sure you’re actually using your glutes in the exercise! People whose glutes are underactive are still able to move and function because other muscles kick in to compensate. It is likely that if your butt is sleeping and you perform this assessment, those compensatory muscles will kick in and it will feel to you as if your glutes are fine. To make sure you are engaging your glutes in this exercise make sure that during contraction
Your pelvis lifts away from the surface on which you are lying
Your legs rotate slightly outward
You continue to breathe
If these three indicators are met and you are able to hold a steady glute contraction, you’ve got a great butt! If you find it difficult to contract only your glute muscles or are unable to maintain the hold for 10 seconds, spend a little more time doing squats or walking up and down stairs focusing on using your glutes instead of your hamstrings to straighten your hips. Is your butt in beast mode or is it taking a nap? Has strengthening or stretching your glutes helped your IT Band pain more? Let me know in the comments!
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