What is your ITB?
Your ITB, or iliotibial band, is a thickened part of the fascia lata found around the thigh. It is composed of connective tissue similar to tendons or ligaments in the sense that it is tougher and has less give then typical skeletal muscle. Your ITB runs along the lateral (outside) thigh, originating along the outer lip of your iliac crest, and inserting on the outside of your knee at the knee cap, tibia, and fibula. It also receives direct input from two muscles that insert along it; the tensor fascia lata (TFL), and a portion of the gluteus maximus. It may also receive indirect input from the other muscles of the thigh in proximity (e.g. vastus lateralis)
Can it be stretched?
Some stretches or activities may lengthen the band, but it is unlikely they are producing any permanent changes. It is more plausible that you’re influencing the point of least resistance, or those most likely to stretch first, which are the muscles that insert into the ITB (TFL or gluteus maximus). And again, chances are any change in length will not be long lasting.
Why does it get “tense”
Again, chances are that “tension” develops due to the influence of the structures around the ITB. One thought is that the TFL bites off a bit more than it can chew, while other muscles that can share some of the work take an extended vacation. Other muscles surrounding the ITB may also influence the fascia lata. This is why treatment of those conditions involving the ITB benefit most from a combined intervention of exercise, education, and manual therapy looking at all the areas that may be having an influence.
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