Many athletes, especially runners and cyclists, share my disdain for the sudden and sharp pain in the knee caused by a tight ITB. And while most people know that "IT" stands for iliotibial band, less of you silent sufferers out there know how to treat it.
But first, a quick tutorial on what your IT band is. Temperamental by nature, the IT band is a strip of fascia that extends along the outer hip and gluteal muscles, down toward the knee. It becomes narrow where it attaches to the top of the bone in the lower half of your leg, and you can nearly feel it-like a thick, taut guitar string-on the outside of your knee.
While the main methods of treatment for a tight IT band include stretching, icing and foam rolling, massage offers another road to relief. We talk to our expert bodywork therapists to find out which massage modalities are best for taming an achy ITB.
Derek Duke Noble, New York, NY
Derek Duke Noble, whose A-list clients include John McEnroe, Maria Shriver and Michael J. Fox, recommends deep tissue work and trigger point release performed by a sports massage specialist. The latter style is a focused form of bodywork in which a licensed massage therapist hones in on specific areas of pain and eliminates them with extreme prejudice. As for self-care, Derek suggests using a tennis ball to manually massage the tight area, followed by a hydrotherapy regimen of hot and cold packs.
Jyoti Rawlinson, Sedona, AZ
While foam rolling may feel good, it's unlikely to eliminate IT band tightness when used alone, explains Jyoti Rawlinson, a former book publisher with "magical hands." Because a tight IT band can result from other tense areas of the leg, she emphasizes the importance of using a type of massage that brings the entire body back into balance. For wonky legs, Active Isolated Stretching and Myoskeletal Alignment may be ideal techniques.
Joe Lavin, Kirkland, WA
Former professional Muay Thai kick boxer Joe Lavin knows that, for athletes, "having a tight iliotibial band is like having a headache or the common cold." Now, as a licensed massage therapist, he treats this widespread concern using a blend of deep tissue massage and Thai massage. He also suggests Rolfing, a dynamic bodywork form that can be performed by certified Rolfers.