Is Your IT Band Really Tight? Alternative 3
It isn’t your glutes and it isn’t your TFL. What else could be making your IT Band tight? A not-so-little quad muscle called the vastus lateralis.
Stretching your tensor fascia lata and strengthening your glutes both produced lackluster results. The outside of your knee is still burning and your outer leg feels tight enough to strum. Don’t go back to frustratedly foam rolling your IT Band just yet! There is one last muscle that could be the source of your iliotibial band pain. Your vastus lateralis. As the name suggests, the quadriceps muscle group is made of four muscles - the rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis. The vastus lat is located on the outside (lateral side) of the thigh, extending from the hip to the knee. It lies directly beneath the IT Band. I think I just heard the light bulb pop on in your head! Because of its positioning, tightness in vastus lat can push or pull the IT Band out of optimal placement creating excessive strain producing ITB syndrome symptoms. But even if the IT Band is able to stay exactly where it needs to be, trigger points in this quad muscle produce referral patterns that are painful in nearly identical ways to ITB dysfunction as you can see in the illustration below.
To test for a tight vastus lateralis muscle, you use the same move as you do to stretch.
Assume the proposal position. The knee in which you are feeling the ITB pain should be on the floor. It is helpful to have a pillow under your knee
Rest the foot that is behind you against a wall and position it so it is slightly away from your body. If you are looking in a mirror, you should be able to see your foot by the outside of your thigh
Keeping your back straight, push forward through your pelvis until you feel a stretch running down the middle of your bottom leg
Slowly move your hips to the same side as your bottom leg, maintaining the forward position, until you feel that stretch move to the outside of your thigh
If your vastus lat is part of your IT Band tightness, you could feel either relief from your symptoms immediately, or you could recreate your symptoms
In either case, hold for 30-60 seconds or until your pain starts to subside
Vastus lateralis tightness is the underlying issue in about 70% of the clients I see who complain of IT Band issues. How did this stretch work for you? Let me know in the comments! And share this post with a friend!