Searching the internet for foam roller thigh pictures gave a lot of examples of this popular exercise. This picture is from Runner’s World (I added the text) and a great example of what not to do with a foam roller. Other sites such as Men's Journal, Fitbit and many rehabilitation sites showed the same pictures, rolling directly onto the iliotibial band. Ouch!
Iliotibial band or ITB tension and pain, lateral thigh or outside thigh pain and tension, is a sign of a sacroiliac joint dysfunction and also that your core is weak. There is hip abduction weakness of your gluteus medius and minimus that cause the tensor fascia lata (TFL) to ‘over-engage’ and to compensate for the weak gluteal muscles. Because of this increased TFL activity there is more tension on the ITB creating inflammation to the anterior and posterior (front and back) borders of the ITB. This will cause adhesions to the connection of the ITB with the fascial sleeve of the thigh. This is why we feel pain and tension to the outside of our thigh.
Rolling your thigh does not help resolve your problem. Rolling right on your iliotibial band can cause injury and make it even harder to recover.
Can I stretch my ITB?
The iliotiibal band is incredibly tough, made up of very dense connective tissue. Our goal is restore its motion by relieving the adhesions that have formed to the connective tissue fascial sleeve of the thigh. We do this by working up from the knee, not down as this has no therapeutic value, and improve motion front to back of the ITB. Because of its structure and multi-joint attachment the ITB and TFL are really un-stretchable. It is best to go after the underlying cause rather than just focusing on a symptom.
By rolling your thigh did you ever reach the point of no longer needing this treatment?
Did you get better?
Treat the underlying cause, not just the symptoms.
Address the sacroiliac joint injury and loss of motion. Restore normal hip and trunk firing while reducing trigger points with dry needling. Finally, assess and treat the core to prevent re-injury. We like to ‘cheat’ and use diagnostic ultrasound for our core training. Check out the COR Strength Project for more on how to assess and train your core.