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Understanding the TFL: A Key to Healthy Hips and Knees

TFL 00 post1 Let’s dive into the world of the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL), a small but mighty muscle located on the front outer part of your hip. This muscle plays a crucial role in stabilizing your knee joint, influencing your pelvic tilt, and helping with hip abduction, flexion, and rotation.

The Problem with Modern Life

Our modern habits, like sitting in chairs for hours with our knees splayed out, can leave our TFL in a weak and shortened position with limited blood flow. It’s also important to maintain a healthy balance between the TFL and the Gluteus Maximus, which inserts into the IT Band from opposite directions.

The TFL’s Role in Stability and Movement

During single-leg stance (think of balancing on one foot), the TFL works to stabilize your body. This is why it’s called a “fascial tensioner.” Beyond that, it’s a complex muscle with a variety of functions:

  • Primary Function: Assisting in hip flexion (especially during the acceleration phase of running).
  • Additional Movements: Hip abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation of the tibia (lower leg bone)

The TFL and Your Glutes: A Connected System

The TFL works closely with your glutes, sharing a connection at the IT Band. Together, they stabilize your hips and indirectly support your knees. When your glutes are weak, your brain might recruit your TFL to compensate, leading to overuse and potential issues like sciatic-like pain.

Why Hockey Players Should Pay Attention

Hockey skating demands explosive power from the hips – extension, abduction, and external rotation. Since the adductors (inner thighs) directly oppose these actions, tight adductors are common in hockey players, putting extra strain on the TFL. This tightness in the TFL can hinder each stride, limiting power and potentially contributing to injury.

What Can You Do?

Focus on strengthening both your glutes and your TFL while ensuring the mobility of the opposing adductors.

The best thing you can do is book an appointment and lets look at what muscles are firiing and what muscles need help.  Then we can treat the painful or less functional muscles and get you setup doing specifici rehab exercises that will accelerate your progress.

What level of rehab is your body ready for?

I take you back to basics in low-level rehab. I rebuild stability and eliminate your rigidity while gradually increasing your time under tension. Forcing those injured or weak muscles to handle the load properly, exposing and taking away any muscle guarding or “cheats”.

In mid-level rehab, I will put your body in a situation where there might be a little less time under tension (load) but I will start increasing your speed of movement.  

When you progress to a higher-level rehab you will be moving more and trying to get the nervous system to be in a position where it has to problem-solve so the muscle can go from tense to relaxed but still achieve a stable, smooth speed of movement.

My goal is to start taking away your hesitation to move in certain ways (some hesitations you don’t even know you have) so we can ultimately achieve Uninhibited Movement: Think less while moving with more confidence.

Jonasson et al. (2016) - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5883172/pdf/hnw023.pdf
"Slagter - Drawing Lateral and anterior view of muscles of thigh and location Iliotibial band syndrome - Dutch labels" by Ron Slagter, license: CC BY-NC-SA