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Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle: Hip and Upper Thigh
Where is the tensor fasciae latae muscle?
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 thigh joining 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 the tensor fasciae latae muscle 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.
Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle Pain
Trigger point (TrP) pain in the tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle is felt in the front of the hip, the 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.
Tensor Fasciae Latae Trigger Points Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms include:
- 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
TFL Muscle and IT Band Pain Pattern: Pain deep in the hip going down the outside of the leg into the knee
What Activities Contribute To Trigger Points In The Tensor Fasciae Latae?
- Running on ground that is sloped or is uneven
- Running on tracks that are banked
- Walking with an extended stride when not in shape
- Walking on the insides of your feet
- Walking with your toes turned in (pigeon toed)
- Court sports (tennis, basketball, volleyball)
- Sleeping in a fetal position
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
- 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 off 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.
Dysfunction in the TFL muscle will make getting up from sitting painful with a feeling of stiffness in the hips. You may also find yourself standing with bent knees and slightly bent forward at the hips to relieve pain.
Tensor Fasciae Latae 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 in the muscle. 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. I highly recommend 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.
TWD Suggestions For Tensor Fasciae Latae Trigger Point Treatment
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is the best resource to learn how to treat and manage your muscle pain. Learn the methods and have the knowledge to relieve muscle pain throughout the body.
The Thera Cane is a tool used in the TrP Workbook to treat the TFL muscle as well as many other muscles. If you are interested in TrP self-treatment, the Thera Cane is worth the investment.
Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is highly recommended for trigger point and chronic pain relief. It relaxes the muscles without the burning heat of other creams. (not sold in stores)
Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel cools the area much like ice discouraging inflammation. If you are dealing with burning and stinging sensations, Biofreeze may work better than warming gels.
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 much longer for the trigger point to resolve.
Interesting facts about the tensor fasciae latae muscle:
- 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 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
Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle Strain Pain
Muscle strains happen when muscle or tendon fibers are torn. Strains are graded according to the number of fibers torn. TFL muscle strains are not common but do occur. The strains are usually mild Grade 1 strains or moderate Grade 2 strains. Severe Grade 3 strains are extremely rare.
Grade 1 strain is also known as a mild strain. A small number of muscles 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 mild strain does not significantly affect daily activities. Mild 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 3-16 weeks to fully heal.
Grade 3 also known as severe strains are 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.
Signs and symptoms include:
- 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 down stairs or an incline will be painful
- Standing from a sitting position is the hip is stiff and painful
The repetitive motions of bending and straightening the hip while running and climbing are contributors to muscle strains and trigger point development in the tensor fasciae latae.
What Causes A Tensor Fasciae Latae Strain?
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 items 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 car then 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:
- Runners and joggers
- People who walk for cardio and fitness
Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle Strain Treatment
Tensor fasciae latae strains are nearly always mild to moderate. The strain can be treated at home following these steps:
- Restrict movement of the thigh at the hip for 24-48 hours
- Along with limiting motion and weight bearing, get extra sleep. Sleep is an important component of the healing process.
- Use ice and cold packs every 1-2 hours, 20 minutes per treatment to decrease pain and swelling. Leaving packs in place for longer is not recommended because soft tissue damage may occur.
- If swelling occurs a Velcro hip brace/wrap can be used 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 begins to reduce, you will start to alternate cold and warm treatments. Begin with cold treatment for 20 minutes, wait for 1-2 hours and apply a warm treatment for 20 minutes. Do not apply treatments back to back.
When to see a doctor:
- Intolerable pain levels
- Rapid and excessive swelling and bruising
- You are not able to move the leg or unable to put weight on the leg
- Swelling, pain, redness, and heat have not lessened within 24-48 hours
How Long Does It Take A Tensor Fasciae Latae 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.
TWD Suggestions For TFL Strains
Comfort CorPak Hot and Cold Therapy can be placed on the TFL and is large enough to cover the side of the hip where pain often occurs. It can be used for hot and cold treatments and used on other areas of the body.
Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel cools the area much like ice discouraging inflammation. Provides excellent pain relief between cold treatments. Recommended by medical professionals and trainers.
The Odofit Support Brace has 3 adjustable straps that allow you to adjust the compression to your needs. The waistband holds the brace in place. One of the best for moderate and severe thigh and groin pain and injury.
Penetrex was formulated specifically to reduce inflammation. If you have strained a muscle and have swelling this is the cream to use. Also works well on joint inflammation caused by arthritis.
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 off 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
Other Items of Interest:
Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.