How can I decrease the tension I feel in my outer thighs?

That is a great question because so many of our kinetic chain or gait issues are caused by excessive tension in what you call the outer thigh what we might call the IT band region. By releasing tension in the IT band you can experience several beneficial enhancements. One would be less knee pain (if you are experiencing this). Some knee pain like runner's knee can be caused by excessive long term tension in the IT band. Tension in the IT band can lead to premature damage to the underlying meniscus.

The quickest and simplest way that we in the training industry have found to release tension in the IT Band or outer thigh is through the use of a foam roller. Watch this attached video from Wendy Batts. She shows how to roll the IT Band. Thanks Wendy for use of this video.

A great way to decrease tension and soreness in the outer thighs is to perform a self-massage technique using a foam roller on your outer thigh muscles.  Similar to massage, foam rolling is useful for locating and relaxing tender spots or "knots" within your muscles that can be overactive, and when irritated, will cause an increase in tension.  Perform the foam roll technique for the outer thigh using the method describe below. Lie on your side supporting yourself with your elbow and forearm.  Place the foam roll under your outer thigh and in front of your hip joint.  Cross your top leg over the leg on the foam roll, so that the bottom of your top foot is touching the floor in front of your body.  Keeping your bottom leg raised off floor, slowly roll from the upper portion of your outer thigh, slightly in front of hip, down to the knee and back up again, searching for tender spots.  Once identified,  apply pressure on the tender spots for at least 30 seconds, or until they relax.  Find 1-3 tender spots and then repeat on the opposite leg.        

Use the Foam Roller to decrease tension in the outer thigh area. The Foam Roller is such an important tool for Self Myo-Fascial Release. When you find a tender or tight area stay on it for 30 seconds. You can see a demonstration here:

Scroll down to Foam Roller - IT Band. Foam Rolling on the IT Band and a little closer to the front on the TFL and Vastus Lateralis will be beneficial.  Give it a try!


NASM answered the question perfectly, one additional step that I like to add is to strengthen weak areas that may be causing the problem as well.

The tension you feel is caused from a muscular imbalance that puts pressure that was not designed in your outer thighs.  This is caused from certain muscles being overly tight and others being overly weak or lengthened. 

Self myofascial release will help relax and loosen up the tight muscles such as the outer thighs but we must also strengthen weak areas that may be causing tension to be added to the outer thigh.

There are many muscles that may be weak that could be weaked that could be causing this but I want to focus on just a couple of things that tend to be the biggest.

  1. Many times outer thigh tension will result in your knees moving inward during movement and your feet turning outward during movement.  Pay attention to when you exercise and look at your knees and your feet.  Are they moving inward and your feet outward?
  2. If this is the case then make a conscious effort to keep your feet pointed forward turning exercise even if it is uncomfortable.  In addition to keeping your feet pointing forward always, also make sure your knees are not caving in, if they are then make a conscioius effort to keep your hips, knees and toes all aligned and pointing in the same direction.
  3. In order to have the strength to do this I am a fan of an exercise called Tube Walking.  You take a exercise or therapy tube, strap it around your ankles and walk laterally.  This will strengthen your gluteus medius (hips) and your gluteus maximus (butt).  This will help you to keep your feet straight and your hips from caving in.

This will help out tremendously in addition to foam rolling.  The two together will work perfectly together.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.