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Hip Muscles and Your Health

By Krista Elliott

The musculature of the human body is an amazing thing. From the tiny muscles in the fingers, nose, and eye area to the large muscles of the legs and back, the muscles are designed to work smoothly and in perfect concert with each other. With no more than a conscious or unconscious thought, our muscles can create expression, action, locomotion, and bodily function. 

Some muscles are lesser-known in the body, but still have a considerable effect on our well-being and comfort. One such muscle is the tensor fascia lata (TFL) muscle. 

What is the Tensor Fascia Lata?

The TFL muscle isn't a big muscle, but it affects more than you might think. It's a small muscle at the side of your hips, and it connects to a large strip of connective tissue (or fascia) called the iliotibial band. This muscle is used for lateral stability, and helps us position our feet when standing or walking. It also helps with side-to-side movements, like when skiing or dancing. 

Unlike the muscles in your back, your TFL muscles tend to be a bit quieter in their displeasure, rarely causing overt pain. However, that doesn't mean that they are problem-free. 

Why You Should Care About Them

The TFL muscle and IT band fascia, like all hip muscles, tend to be neglected in stretching and massage routines. Tightness and inflexibility, therefore, becomes common. As a test, lie down on one side and press your thumb into the area at the very top of the outside of your leg, just below your hipbone. You will probably be surprised at just how much tightness and discomfort you experience. And having tight TFL muscles and IT bands can affect your body in surprising ways. 

One noticeable effect is on your gait. With tight TFL muscles, you may find yourself walking slightly splay-footed. Or, when you lie down, your feet immediately flip out quite far to the side. Tight TFLs can also affect your performance in sports, from running to swimming to skating and more. 

How to Care for Them

Stretching the TFL muscles and IT band can create a noticeable difference in your stance and gait, as well as your overall comfort. One effective stretch is to lie on your back, with your left knee bent. Stretch the left leg over your body to the right side, with the knee still bent, and your left hip pointing toward the ceiling. Another effective method is to stretch the muscle using a foam roller. It can be uncomfortable, but it also serves to break up any adhesions in the fascia. 

Part of being healthy and vital is knowing your body and how it works. With increased knowledge about your tensor fascia lata muscle, you have an important key to improved flexibility and mobility for years to come. 

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