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What is a Tensor Fasciae Latae and Why does Mine Hurt?

Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle

I recently had the dubious pleasure of discovering a new muscle in my body. The muscle is called the Tensor Fasciae Latae. This lovely little muscle is located in the hip area. If you haven’t discovered yours, count yourself lucky.

How I discovered My Tensor Fasciae Latae

I started running again. I decided to get up from the computer and get out running. I had been sedentary for the last couple of months so I thought it was time to get things back on track so I went for a 1 mile run followed by a 1 mile walk. I felt great. I came home and stretched and all was right with the world, or at least I thought all was right with the world.Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle

As the day wore on I noticed some pain around the hip area. It hurt when I walked, moved in certain ways and it also hurt to the touch. For a quick moment, I wondered if this was the beginning signs of osteoporosis and the need for hip replacement surgery (I’m not really a hypochondriac, but my brother just had his hip replaced so the thought was on my mind). Then I thought about it for a moment, since it was painful to the touch; that meant muscle pain…whew!

Because of my advancing years, I decided to rest a day before the next run. I ran the same distance and later in the day the pain was even worse. Not being one to give in, I rested another day and ran a third time. This time the pain was so bad, there was no way that one day of rest would be enough for me to run again.

Calling it Quits

I decided to call it quits until I got in chiropractic adjustment. I assumed that I was out of alignment thus causing my lop sided hip pain. I explained the problem to my chiropractor and he basically gave me a stretching exercise, told me to stop being a wuss and get out there and run. So after he adjusted me, I went running the next day.

Excruciating Hip PainThe Inflammation Syndrome

That running advice was bad advice. The pain was so bad that I had to pull out the ibuprofen (I don’t like taking medicine). I assumed the muscle was inflamed so along with the ibuprofen I ate anti-inflammatory foods and walked around with ice in my hip pocket, 20 minutes on, and 20 minutes off. I did that for the remainder of the day.

Time to Find the Root of the Problem

I decided to find out what was causing the problem and address it head on. That’s when I discovered that the offending muscle is called the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL). It’s a neat little muscle located just on the outside of the hip. The muscle engages when you put one foot in front of the other. Here’s a better explanation of what the Tensor Fasciae Late muscle does and how it works.

After finding out what the TFL does and how it works, I found this article that explained why mine hurt so bad and how I caused it to hurt.  One of the causes is an increase in mileage or physical activity. So I guess when you go from sitting on your rear end to running a mile that’s a marked increase in physical activity. Other contributing factors can include (but are not limited to) a leg imbalance, sedentary lifestyle, being out of shape, uneven muscle development or just plain old getting older. What ever the reason, my TFL is a little pissed off.TFL

Fixing the Problem

From what I’ve read, the first thing to do is to stop the acute pain (that’s a no brainer). No one likes to be in pain.

Once the pain has subsided, stretching the muscle is a good idea. There are a few stretching exercises that I came across that seem to target the Tensor Fasciae Latae muscle. It involves standing straight and crossing the leg of the non affected hip over the leg of the affected hip (balance yourself first), then lean to the side of the non affected hip. This helps to stretch the FTL. I’ve been doing this several times a day (even though I’m still in the pain stage).

It appears that the next step is to condition and strengthen the appropriate muscles. I’m still a little fuzzy on how to do this. I’m looking at a few sites that have interesting exercises to help rectify my FTL problem.

In the meanwhile I’ve taken to biking instead. I’m still working on reducing the inflammation and pain (peddling doesn’t seem to bother the TFL) in preparation for the next step.

If anyone has sound advice on how to recover from an angry TFL, I’d love to hear it.

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About the author: Felicia is a freelance writer who loves to find simple, natural ways to improve her health and the health of those around her.

Categories: Aging,, Body Parts,, Fitness,, Injuries,, Running,, Tensor Fasciae Latae

{ 108 comments… add one }

  • Lara February 8, 2015, 9:03 pm

    I have same pain in right hip because of skeletal imbalance. My right hip is slightly tilted down.
    Only started bothering me 2 years into jogging/biking/hiking Now I bike, jog maybe a mile, and bootcamps. Bummer because I enjoyed long summer runs. Now they are run/walks.

    • Felicia February 9, 2015, 7:06 am

      Maybe a chiropractor could help with your imbalance?

  • Diane moore December 30, 2014, 9:26 pm

    I hear you sister! I found my TFL when I had that odd hip pain and “couldn’t quite reach” the spot. Then I did! Whoa! Hit the spot and pain shot through me. I discovered that massaging that little devil and crossed leg stretches immediately reduce the pain. It hurts to massage it , and it’s a crazy position to reach it, but I’m so thankful I did! I massage it pretty hard and it’s a miracle worker. Sitting and reading in bed is the trigger for me. Good luck!

  • Jay C. Levine December 2, 2014, 2:59 pm

    I have had a similar problem in both legs since the age of 14. I saw orthopedic doctors and I was told as long as I could stand the pain I could continue in athletic activities. I was also given morphine for the pain, but decided I did not want to get addicted to pain medications so stopped taking them. I was very active in sports and often I would have to use traction afterwards to stretch the muscles which would allow me to walk normally again. Besides the pain, my legs would what I call lock or not allow normal movement. I continued to be very active in sports until I turned 30, but now I have curtailed my activities and suffer rarely from high pain. I am 66. I don’t know if you have similar pain, but it is the same area as yours. Good luck.

    • Felicia December 3, 2014, 9:36 am

      I’m amazed at how many of us have suffered from the same type of pain. Fortunately, mine hasn’t bothered me for a year or two. Wish I could say the same for sciatica.

  • Dave November 25, 2014, 11:00 am

    I am 56 years old and in great shape. I had a misdiagnosed injury (Gilmore’s groin) that kept me out of the gym from 26 – 51 years old. I noticed in my 40’s that my legs would feel “old” and simple occasional stretching would help immensely. After I started working out again I started pushing it and would lift weights and burn 400 cal. in 35 min. on the elliptical machine right afterwards. I had to take the better part of 3 months off recently and could not get going on the elliptical machine as my legs just plain hurt. I started to worry because stretching no longer cured the problem. I rolled on my foam roller for 20 seconds on both TFL’s this morning and the pain in my TFL’s, abductors and adductors vanished. Tight TFL’s causing a muscle imbalance. Thank you God!

  • Steve August 6, 2014, 8:06 am

    Last week I experienced tightness in my TFL…first time for that. Then in a 24 hour period, while camping, I experienced a tearing of the TFL on four separate occasions. What it the best way to rehab this muscle and prevent the tightness in the future?

  • Collin February 6, 2014, 6:01 pm

    Re the TFL. I’m 60 and have pursued various treatments including A.R.T. active release therapy. Nothing has worked so far but I am now seeing a sports physiotherapist who tells me that the ball at the top of my leg is riding just a bit too high in the socket. So for treatment he has been softening the muscle with electrolysis electrodes and then instructs me to hold on to the treatment bed while he pulls my leg down and away with multiple jerks from the socket in my hip. He then gives me classic TFL stretch excersises and also instructs me to shake my leg down as if I have a clump of wet clay on my shoe sole and want it to flick off. Have only had two treatments and there does appear to be some improvement. My big question though, is, will the leg eventually continue to return to the high spot in the socket and invoke chronic TFL pain? I guess time will tell.

  • jacbec January 14, 2014, 4:49 pm

    I am 79 and for a couple of years had been going on long walks (up to 10-13 miles, average about 6 mi) several times a week. Last year I was less active and one day in Oct felt a pain in my left thigh area as I was walking that severely impeded my walking. I had been having lower back pain for several years and it felt like much of the pain descended to my left upper thigh whenever I walked (especially up hill) or climbed stairs. It is also uncomfortable lying on my left sideGoing down stairs was OK. Riding a stationary bike or walking on an Eliptical doesn’t seem to bother me. I can manage to walk a couple of miles with some pain and a noticeable limping gate.

    I saw an Orthopedist who had X-rays taken but didn’t show much except some mild arthritis in my left hip joint. I went to PT for a few weeks and learned about the TFL muscle. Massaging the TFL gives me temporary relief. I am also doing some stretching exercises and a step exercise on a 4″ step. I don’t seem to be getting any better, but maybe I am not giving it enough time. It has been 3 months now and I would like to get beyond short 2 mile limping walks and be able to run up and down the stairs.

    • Felicia January 15, 2014, 7:05 pm

      Jacbec, sorry to hear about your injury. If the problem is TFL, you’ll need to rest it quite a bit (at least from my experience). My original post was written about 4 years ago. Back then I actually gave up running and long walks and took up biking instead. Many months later when I tried running again, my TFL was fine and has not flared up since then.

  • Giles Hinchcliffe January 9, 2014, 9:50 am

    I would buy it – its marvellous. You will need a tennis ball for the self massage. Your ‘sciatic’ problems could be a tight piriformis muscle which the tennis ball will quickly release. Also look for trigger points in your gluteus medius and minimus. Good luck.

  • Giles Hinchcliffe January 4, 2014, 10:11 am

    I would be tempted to look for trigger points. I am a regular racquets player aged 66 abd have just picked up this problem. I like the cooked spaghetti description that Gail mentioned and TPs are like that. My bible is ‘The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, by Clair Davies. It is a brilliantly written, easy to read book covering problems in all muscles. Thanks for the article Felicia.

    • Felicia January 9, 2014, 9:44 am

      Trigger Point Therapy sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out and read a few of the reviews. Not so sure I’ll buy the book at this point, but it sounds like it is worth investigating.

  • Gail September 10, 2013, 10:21 pm

    I finally found complete relief after going to a physical therapist who specialized in ASTYM (pronounced a-stim) (see astym.com) He described normal muscle tissue like uncooked spaghetti – straight and lined up. Then he described the spots that hurt like cooked spaghetti, all jumbled and tangled and knotted. In ASTYM therapy, they gently realign and straighten the muscle tissue again. I had hurt for years and now I’m virturally pain free. However, only go to a physical therapist who is certified in ASTYM. I hope this will help all of you.

  • marius moldovan September 9, 2013, 11:53 pm

    hi!i am a soccer player and i have this problem for almost an year now!wat happened is that i took a shoot without streching out and i felt the horrible pain…and after that i got injured like 4 times again in every week….i have this horrible pain for an year now…i dont know wat to do…i cant play soccer or kick the ball!:(

  • Inge Van Bruystegem August 30, 2013, 9:04 am

    hello, I am a dancer who sometimes runs and i am constantly fighting on and of with the TFL.
    I seem to feel it is also linked with ‘holding your body in tension’ in other words ‘stress’.
    the running will not help it much i guess, but i am working on trying to run without excess lateral tension, and to keep it ‘straight’ ‘forward moving’ focusing on the hamstring and release in the front of the hips, and moving from the ‘belly’ as I run. I stretch a lot and try to find the really ‘icky’ places and find out by meditating on them what they mean and if i can, release them deeply, through breathing. I have also realized that i held on to the TFL tension in my sleep.
    I think the answer is all, definitely exercise, stretch AND massage, try to work all the muscles harmoniously not forgetting to stretch the more difficult ones. the ones, besides the usual after running stretches i find helpful for overall balance and ‘unstressing the leg’ are these :
    put on leg on the back of a bench or something, try to stand really tall straight and grounded.
    then rotate the hips towards the leg that’s up and move the trunk diagonally forward towards the leg (this helps to get the feel of the stretch, but afterwards you can find it just putting the leg up and executing the twist) You will find a deep stretch that stretches the whole outside line of of the leg on the bench, keep it for one minute, breathing into it. in fact you should keep all your stretches for one minute if you want any lasting effect!!
    2. put the knee on the ground or the bench and launch forwards the other leg, let the hips sink in so you can stretch the psoas and the front of the hips, you can pull on the foot behind you for extra thigh stretch
    3. sit and lay your knees on top of each other, your right foot ending up next to the left hip and the left by the right. most peoples knees will not touch (mine do…) sit up straight. this is the best relaxing stretching position for the TFL for me… STAY AT LEAST ONE MINUTE
    so but mainly work on yourself, on the general flow of your well being through your body, and try observe what unnecessary tension you walk or sit with, (i tend to tense the TFL while sitting and driving, you can undo it!!), meditate on it a little, putting the held tensions to better usage…

    • Felicia August 30, 2013, 9:19 am

      Inge, I agree with you. We tend to adapt muscle to tension as a result of unrealized stress. It seems that sciatica has replaced my TFL issues. I believe they’re both caused by the same problem.

      Recently my sister-in-law sent me a yoga DVD. It’s a beginners DVD that contains a 20 minute routine. The poses are gentle and held for a limited amount of time. It’s great for people like me who have never practiced yoga (aka stiff as a board).

      What I’ve found since using the routine diligently every day, my sciatica tension is getting better. I used to feel it the moment I bent over the sink to brush my teeth, but now I no longer feel the tension down my leg. I believe the gentle stretching and relaxing yoga moves are doing much to improve my condition. Since it’s only a 20 minute routine, I make sure to wake up 20 minutes earlier to get it into my day.

      Some of your recommended moves are similar to those found on the DVD.

  • Tony July 29, 2013, 11:04 pm

    I had this problem with overdeveloped Tensor fasciae on both hips. I stretched out the right in 1979- difficult stretch. Next day suffered nausea, collapse and extreme pain. Still working on reduction of left TF. The resulting tension on my left side caused several hospitalisations, Including disturbances in left ear pressure irregularities leading to severe vertigo. After stretching for 20 years, finally experiencing incredible mobility in left hip, I can walk up stairs and utilise left glutes in the process. The overdeveloped TF made me a really strong biker but a short stride somewhat heavy legged runner. I believe my propensity for this specific overdeveloped muscles was genetic. Good luck to anyone with this problem. Keep exercising it helps. Avoid surgery if possible.

    • Felicia July 30, 2013, 7:32 am

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure it will help someone else with the very same symptoms.

  • Bill July 22, 2013, 1:39 pm

    I can’t believe it took me a couple years to find this post and find out what a Tensor Fasciae Latae is! I have been to my primary care doctor a couple times in the last 6 months and he said to just take some pain reliever. No other recommendations. I get this annoying pain on my left side mostly when sitting down (anywhere from driving to sitting at work all day). Its happening alot more often in the last couple weeks. I ran two half marathons in a 6 month period back in 2011 without much training. It all makes sense now when I saw this is a runner type injury. Im going to try doing the things in this article to help make my pain go away. What are the best things to do to make this go away sooner than later. thanks for all your input. hopefully everyone’s suggestions work for me.

    • Felicia July 23, 2013, 7:46 am

      Glad you found this post, Bill. It was written a few years ago, but the comments are pretty recent. I’m not sure which remedy (if any) will work for you. I haven’t suffered with TFL pain in quite some time so I’m not so sure I can give you accurate advice. Your best bet is to read through the comments.

      Good luck with resolving your TFL problem.

  • Laura May 15, 2013, 9:29 am

    I’m sure others have posted something similar to what I’m about to say but I just want to share that there is hope!
    I have been battling this issue for the past year and a half. The pain where the TFL and it band come together at the crest of my hip was so painful – walking up and down stairs even hurt!

    I went through all of the channels – orthopedic – PT etc. and in the end they all shrugged their shoulders when I wasn’t better. The Ortho’s advice was to administer injections. That is not the answer!

    So I recently threw my back out and my primary care sent me to a SPORTS Chiroprator. His insight is amazing and he has an amazing medical massage therapist on staff! They have given me hope! I have strengthening exercises for my gluteus and stretches for my IT band with rolling on foam roller. The massage therapist gets into my fibers to wake them up and try to promote blood flow throughout my it band – very painful but I’m really starting to see results! The pain is subsiding :-).

    The treatment will probably take 6 months to a year but I now have the tools to continue strengthening and stretching my ailments.

    The dr. Who I see is Dr. Lukosus in Naperville, Il. Check him out and see if you can find someone comparable to him in your area. On a side note, he recently spoke at a conference in Denver on this topic!

    So best of luck to all suffers! Know there are many others in your situation but it will get better :-)

  • Daphne May 14, 2013, 2:19 am

    Hi all,

    I recently started running regularly after about 10 years off (not including sporadic elliptical workouts). The first couple of weeks went very well, but my thigh muscles were always quite sore since I was doing a lot of uphill running and I wasn’t taking days off. I figured I should stretch more and started doing some yoga exercises geared toward runners. As soon as I started this, I experienced the TFL pain you are describing in both hips (equal pain, started at the same time in both). I have also come very close to twisting my ankle multiple times since I started the yoga exercises (this is not uncommon for me, but it is happening much more often now).

    It does certainly seem as if the additional stretching caused the problem when combined with running. I feel as if the tenseness in those muscles held my hips/knees/ankles together (if that makes sense) – after stretching them, there is too much flexibility, allowing the joints to move out of place or move abnormally. Of course with running, the movement is repetitive so this would eventually aggravate the muscles surrounding that area. Between work and school, I have spent 8-12 hours per day in front of a computer for many years and definitely agree that the body will “rebel” when we make drastic changes to the way we move our bodies.

    This is new to me so I will experiment with different combinations of stretches, running, and rest to see what works. It could just be a reaction to something new that goes away with time. Just thought I’d throw my experience into the mix here and see if anyone has any tips for me. Oh, also, I am 26 so I don’t think age is a factor. I still have arches & use arch support, and as far as I know my legs are the same length, although my feet are slightly different sizes.

    • Daphne July 25, 2013, 3:15 pm

      So I took some time off, got some new (amazing) running shoes and switched up the yoga regime (much less focus on the legs, no longer doing yoga for runners). Problem has gone away completely. I think a lot of it had to do with the shoes.

      • Felicia July 27, 2013, 7:03 am

        I’m with you, Daphne, on the sneakers. Some time ago, I did a connect-the-dot conclusion about my TFL pain and my sneakers.

  • Jay C. Levine May 8, 2013, 10:32 am

    I found this article very interesting. I started to develop pain when I was 11 years old and I am now 65. I participated in many sports and my leg would lock which does not seem to be the same for the people who have written to you. I would go into traction to stretch the muscle until it relaxed enough and then the pain would eventually subside. When I was 18 I had an orthopedic specialist examine me for the military physical and I was given a physical exemption. A few years ago I decided to visit an orthopedic doctor and I was given a handicap license plate for life, so perhaps my condition is not quite the same as everyone else. I have found that rest has been the best solution to avoid pain. The stretching exercises make sense to me as long as they are done slowly and stopped at the first sign of pain. I was also told I could not cause any damage to my legs participating in sports as long as I could tolerate the pain. I was given morphine for the pain at age 11 and by the time I was 15 I refused to take pain pills. There does appear to be a direct correlation between athletic activity and the pain for everyone. Good luck to everyone who wrote.

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