Trigger point (TrP) pain in the tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle is felt in the front and side of the hip, around the hip joint, and may extend down into the upper thigh.

TrP pain usually begins with aching and stiffness in the hip. Left untreated, the pain and stiffness increase over time to the point that aching pain is constant when standing, walking, and running. A sign of trigger points in the TFL muscle is you tend to stand with your knees bent, and your upper body is slightly leaning forward at the hips.

If you strain the TFL muscle, the pain is immediate and is felt in the front and/or side of the hip. You will usually feel a pulling, tearing, or popping sensation at the time of injury. Pain is the most intense during the first 24-72 hours, but aching pain that can be sharp with certain movements can linger for weeks.

Article Contents

    Where Is The Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle?

    Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle With Trigger Point Locations

    The tensor fasciae latae attaches at the top of the hip bone (iliac crest and iliac spine), traveling down the outside of the hip and joins the iliotibial band. The IT Band continues down the outside of the thigh connecting to the outside of the shin bone (tibia).

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Assists with bending the thigh up toward the body (flexion)
    • Assists with twisting the thigh toward the body (internal rotation)
    • Assists with straightening the knee (extension)
    • Assists with lifting the thigh to the side away from the body (abduction)

    The Tensor Fasciae Latae and Iliotibial Band Anatomy page has origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information. Muscle actions are listed along with agonists and antagonists for each muscle movement.

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    Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Tensor Fasciae Latae Referred Pain Pattern
    • Pain deep in the hip going down the outside of the thigh
    • Pain at the front of the hip
    • Discomfort when sitting
    • When standing from a sitting position, you tend to stand up, leaning forward at the waist and hips with your knees bent. Straightening to a full standing position is slow and painful, with a feeling of stiffness
    • While standing, knees and hips tend to remain flexed (bent)
    • Pain intensifies when your foot hits the ground while walking or running

    Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)

    Biofreeze Professional Gel is recommended for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain. Medical professionals and trainers recommend it. 

    What Activities Contribute To Trigger Points In The Tensor Fasciae Latae?

    • Running
      • Running on ground that is sloped or is uneven
      • Running on banked tracks
    • Climbing
    • Cycling
    • Walking with an extended stride when not in shape
    • Walking on the insides of your feet
    • Walking with your toes turned in (pigeon-toed)
    • Dancing
    • Court sports (tennis, basketball, volleyball)
    • Sleeping in a fetal position
    • Sitting for prolonged periods
    • Weak ankles
    • Wearing worn-out shoes

    Trigger points often develop after an injury to the muscle.

    How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The TFL Muscle

    • Always warm-up before exercise and sports. If you are going for a walk, start easy and slowly work into an extended stride.
    • Don’t sit for extended times. Get up, move around, and stretch every hour.
    • Don’t run on sloping ground and limit running on banked tracks
    • Vary your sleeping position. Try not to sleep all night curled up in a ball
    • If you have weak ankles, seek out exercises to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg and those around the ankles.
    • Don’t wear shoes that allow your feet to turn in or turn out.

    TWD Recommends

    Cureve Hot Cold Pack can be used for warm and cold treatments. It is recommended to use cold packs on the area for 20-minutes after a TrP treatment. Use a warm treatment when the muscle is tight and needs to relax.

    TFL Trigger Point Treatment

    The easiest way to learn how to treat trigger points in the TFL muscle would be to find a massage therapist, physical therapist, or other professional trained in trigger point therapy to show you how to find and treat TrPs. Be sure to inquire about their training before making an appointment!

    If you are patient and willing to practice, you can learn to find the trigger points and self-treat. Use  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook to learn about TrPs, how to find them, and how to treat them. Once you learn trigger point therapy, you will be able to treat muscle pain throughout the body.

    The key to successful trigger point therapy is consistency in treatments. Trigger points should be treated 1-2 minutes per treatment several times during the day until the trigger point is gone.

    The TheraCane Massager is a tool used in the TrP Workbook to treat the TFL muscle and many other muscles. If you are interested in TrP self-treatment, the Thera Cane is worth the investment.

    TWD Recommends

    You’re tired. Your lower back and hips are stiff and hurt. All you want to do is lie down and be able to relax.
    The Snailax Vibrating Massage Mat With Heat is made for those times. The mat features a full-body vibrating massage and has multiple settings for massage and heat. The remote allows you to adjust settings with a push of a button. An excellent way to ease aches and pains in the back, hips, and legs at the end of the day! Sixty-nine inches (5′ 9″) long.

    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    You often feel a reduction in pain and stiffness in just a few treatments though it can take several days for the trigger point to resolve.

    Interesting facts:

    • Pain from trigger points in the tensor fasciae latae muscle is often diagnosed as bursitis of the hip or thinning of the hip cartilage.
    • The TFL muscles are always working when you are standing on your feet.

    Tensor fasciae latae pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Trochanteric bursitis
    • Iliotibial tract friction syndrome
    • Sacroilitis
    • L2 L3 L4 radiculopathy
    • Peripheral nerve entrapment
    • Meralgia paresthetica (Bernhardt's disease)

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    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the tensor fasciae latae muscle:

    If you find trigger points in the tensor fasciae latae muscle it is likely you will find trigger points in some or all of these muscles.

    • Gluteus minimus
    • Rectus femoris
    • Iliopsoas
    • Sartorius
    • Quadratus lumborum

    TWD Recommends

    Doctors and physical therapists often recommend TENS to relax the muscles and ease the pain. The Belifu TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator is highly recommended and a great choice for treating muscle pain throughout the body.

    Tensor Fasciae Latae Strain

    Muscle strains happen when muscle or tendon fibers tear. Strains are graded according to the number of muscle or tendon fibers torn. TFL muscle strains are usually mild Grade 1 strains or moderate Grade 2 strains. Severe Grade 3 strains are rare.

    Grade 1 strain is also known as a mild strain. A small number of muscle fibers are torn, which will cause mild pain and discomfort. A pulling or tearing sensation may be felt at the time of injury. Though there may be discomfort, a Grade 1 strain does not significantly affect daily activities. Grade 1 strains heal quickly, usually within 1-2 weeks.

    Grade 2 or moderate strain happens when a significant number, up to half of muscle or tendon fibers, are torn. There is immediate pain, often with a popping or ripping sensation. A moderate strain will affect daily activities because of pain and stiffness in the hip and fold of the leg. Grade 2 strains can take 3-12 weeks to heal.

    Grade 3 or a severe strain is rare in the TFL muscle. The pain is immediate, excruciating, and a popping or ripping sensation is felt. Grade 3 strains are serious and must be treated by a medical professional. Healing time is several months.

    Symptoms of TFL Muscle Strain:

    • A pulling, tearing, or popping sensation is felt when the injury happens
    • Bending and straightening the thigh at the hip is painful
    • Putting weight on the leg is painful
    • The area around TFL strain may turn red and be warm to touch
    • Bruising and swelling may occur with a moderate strain
    • Walking downstairs or an incline will be painful
    • When standing from a sitting position, the hip is stiff and painful

    What Causes TFL Strains?

    The repetitive motion of bending and straightening the thigh at the hip is the most common cause of TFL strains. A strain can also occur if the muscle takes a direct hit though this is not common.
    Another cause of TFL strains is lifting and twisting when standing on an incline or uneven ground.

    An example: You are unloading an item out of your car. One foot is up on the curb the other is down on the street. You lift the item out of your vehicle and twist to step up on the curb. The combination of these movements can cause tears in the tensor fasciae latae muscle.

    Sports and activities that contribute to TFL strains:

    • Running and jogging
    • People who walk for cardio and fitness
    • Climbing
    • Cycling
    • Gymnastics
    • Dancing

    Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle Strain Treatment

    Tensor fasciae latae strains are nearly always mild to moderate. You can treat strains at home following these steps:

    • Restrict movement of the thigh at the hip for 24-48 hour
    • Along with limiting motion and weight-bearing, get extra sleep. Sleep is a vital component of the healing process.
    • Use ice and cold packs every 1-2 hours, 20 minutes per treatment to decrease pain and swelling. Leaving cold packs in place for longer is not recommended because soft tissue damage may occur.
    • If swelling occurs, you can use a Velcro hip brace/wrap to apply compression. Moderate compression can help discourage swelling and provide support to the injured muscle.

    Follow these steps for the first 24-72 hours until the pain and swelling decrease.
    If swelling occurs, it will usually begin to decrease in 48-72 hours. Once the swelling has reduced, you will start to alternate cold and warm treatments. Begin with a cold treatment for 20 minutes, wait for 1-2 hours, then apply a warm treatment for 20 minutes. Do not apply cold and warm treatment back to back.

    TWD Recommends

    The Odofit Support Brace has three adjustable straps that allow you to adjust the compression to your needs. The waistband holds the brace in place. Works well to provide light compression to the TFL muscle.

    How long does it take a TFL strain to heal?

    Depending on the severity of the tear, healing can take 1-2 weeks for a mild strain and 1-3 months for a moderate tear.

    Tips To Avoid Tensor Fasciae Latae Strains

    • Always take a few minutes and warm up before sports and exercises
    • When running or walking for exercise, start slow, gradually increasing your stride
    • Avoid running on sloped or uneven ground and limit running on a banked track
    • Cool down after exertion by walking around until your heart rate returns to normal and doing some easy stretches to help keep the hip and leg muscles from becoming tight and sore
    • Avoid standing on uneven ground and lifting while twisting the torso

    Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

    Gluteus Medius
    Gluteus Minimus