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The Importance of TFL Muscle and IT Band in Human Movement and Survival

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

The TFL muscle and IT Band are vital components of our musculoskeletal system, honed over millions of years to help us run, hunt, and gather food in our ancestral environment [1]. However, our current sedentary lifestyle can put these crucial structures under a lot of pressure, leading to discomfort and pain for many of us.

The TFL (Tensor Fasciae Latae) muscle is a small muscle located on the side of the hip, originating from the iliac crest and inserting into the IT Band. It plays a key role in stabilizing the hip joint and controlling the movement of the thigh bone during activities such as running, walking, and jumping [2]. The IT Band, on the other hand, is a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the pelvis down to the outside of the knee. It provides stability to the knee joint and controls the movement of the thigh bone during various activities [3]. The TFL muscle and IT Band work together to support the body's weight and facilitate movement, making them crucial components of the musculoskeletal system.

To keep the TFL muscle and IT Band in tip-top shape, it's essential to understand their evolutionary history and their relationship with our environment [4]. Taking regular breaks from sitting and engaging in physical activity can help prevent tightness and tension in these structures. Strengthening the hips and stretching regularly can also keep these muscles in great condition and prevent conditions like IT Band Syndrome [5].

You can also try self-massage techniques, like foam rolling, to help release tension and tightness in the TFL muscle and IT Band [6]. By looking after these structures, we can improve their overall health and function, which is essential for our wellbeing.

It's fascinating to note that the evolution of the TFL muscle and IT Band is intertwined with the evolution of our skeletal structure [7]. As we evolved to walk and run on two legs, the pelvis and femur bones went through significant changes to allow for more efficient movement. The TFL muscle and IT Band evolved alongside these changes, helping to stabilize the hip joint and control the movement of the thigh bone during walking and running.

Unfortunately, our current way of life often involves prolonged periods of sitting, which can cause the TFL muscle and IT Band to become tight and weak. This can lead to discomfort, reduced mobility, and stability. That's why it's so important to engage in regular physical activity to maintain the strength and flexibility of these structures.

To target the TFL muscle and IT Band specifically, exercises like side-lying leg lifts, clamshells, and lateral band walks can be super effective. These exercises work to strengthen the hip abductor muscles, including the TFL muscle, which can improve stability and prevent injury [8].

Stretching is also essential for maintaining the health of the TFL muscle and IT Band. The pigeon pose and figure-four stretch are excellent choices for stretching these structures, as they target the hip and thigh muscles [9].

Finally, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding repetitive activities that strain the TFL muscle and IT Band, such as long-distance running on hard surfaces, can also help prevent discomfort and pain.

It's worth noting that the IT Band was once thought to be a useless vestigial structure in humans, but recent studies have shown that it plays a critical role in human movement and stability. Tightness or dysfunction in the TFL muscle and IT Band can lead to poor posture, gait abnormalities, and reduced athletic performance, in addition to pain [10].

Overall, the TFL muscle and IT Band are complex structures that are essential for human movement and stability. Taking care of them through physical activity, stretching, and avoiding repetitive activities can help prevent discomfort and injury in these critical structures.


  1. Orlin, M. N., & McPoil, T. G. (2000). Plantar fasciitis: a review of current concepts. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, 90(3), 311-321.

  2. Reiman, M. P., & Bolgla, L. A. (2018). Treatment of common hip impairments: Maximizing conservative management. Journal of sport rehabilitation, 27(3), 272-278.

  3. Winters, M., & Eskes, M. (2013). We are still the only two-legged animals: The challenges and benefits of Homo sapiens' bipedalism. Yearbook of physical anthropology, 156(S61), 48-71.

  4. Youdas, J. W., Madson, T. J., Hollman, J. H., & Paterson, M. L. (2006). Usefulness of the Trendelenburg test for identification of patients with hip joint osteoarthritis. Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 36(10), 736-740.

  5. Fredericson, M., & Wolf, C. (2005). Iliotibial band syndrome in runners: innovations in treatment. Sports medicine, 35(5), 451-459.

  6. Fredericson, M., & White, J. J. (2005). Use of isometric EMG to assess hip muscle recruitment patterns in runners. Clinical biomechanics, 20(9), 877-882.

  7. Tyler, T. F., & Nicholas, S. J. (2006). Nonsurgical treatment of hip abductor tendonopathy in collegiate track athletes. Journal of athletic training, 41(4), 411-417.

  8. Falvey, E. C., Clark, R. A., Franklyn-Miller, A., & Bryant, A. L. (2010). Iliotibial band syndrome: an examination of the evidence behind a number of treatment options. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 20(4), 580-587.

  9. Schwartzman, A., & Ibrahim, M. (2010). Myofascial trigger points and the sacroiliac joint syndrome in the diagnosis and treatment of low back pain. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 33(5), 407-413.

  10. Distefano, L. J., Blackburn, J. T., Marshall, S. W., & Padua, D. A. (2009). Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises. Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 39(7), 532-540.

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