Continuing on from last week’s objective of the glute medius and runner’s knee, we move forward with the IT band and specifically, the makeup of it. The IT band is made primarily of dense irregular connective tissue, called fascia. Fascia comes in many forms and is made up of collagen.
Fascia forms pods called fascicles which create honeycomb-like structures within the musculature. Fascicles connect muscles to bones, bones to bones, and also provide separation between muscles and organs.
Another key characteristic of fascia are that they are largely fluid structures. Fascia are like sponges. Hydration is thus very important as it keeps the collagen sheets able to glide between a mucous like protein called glycosaminoglycans (GAG).
When there isn’t adequate hydration, these GAGs glue the collagen sheets together. Not good. The more glued up these collagen sheets get, the more susceptible they become to inflammation, deformation, and even tearing.
Drink more water?
Not exactly. Drinking more water will increase overall hydration but this is not enough to hydrate the fascia tissue. You need to get better pathways for water to reach the fascia (microvacuoles).
How do you do that?
Soft tissue work. If you know anything about soft tissue work, there is nothing soft about it. It is painful. Our fascia are highly innervated, aiding in proprioception as well as nociception. Soft tissue work opens up these pores for the microvacuoles, enabling greater hydration and proper gliding of the collagen sheets against GAG.
Ballistic Force? Oh My Stars and Garters
Severe, ballistic loading of the fascia can lead to temporary vasoelastic deformation and even microtearing.
In cases like runner’s knee, where most likely, due to weakening of the glute medius, the IT band takes a beating. Interestingly this leads to tightening of the quad, especially around the lateral side. Moreover, inflammation will result. Interestingly, muscles, through their epimysia, transmit significant ballistic force to the laterally positioned synergistic muscles as well as the antagonistic ones.
Vleeming A et al.: Proceedings of the 7th Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back & Pelvic Pain, Los Angeles, November 9-12, 2010, ISBN 978-90-816016-1-0, page 215-218