Know Your Trigger Point Muscle Series: Tensor Fasciae Latae

Trigger Point Referred Pain Pattern of the Tensor Fasciae Latae

When you are inflicted with trigger points on the tensor fasciae latae muscle, you will have pain down the lateral front thigh and down towards the knee. And in some individuals can extend into the hip and as far down as the calf muscle. Individuals who suffer with active tensor fasciae latae trigger points will have a difficulty in walking at a fast pace. And trigger point pain here is often misdiagnosed with trochanteric bursitis.

Symptoms and Stress:

You may experience pain upon fast walking as a result, you will walk slower than normal. You may also have difficulty standing on leg without pain and keeping your pelvis level. Due to active and painful trigger points, you may also experience difficulty sleeping on the same side as with the active TrPs.

The TFL muscle functions primary during the stance phase of gait to control movement more than to produce movement. This muscle assists with the glute medius and glute minimus to stabilize the pelvis and some of the posterior fibers assist in stabilizing the knee. The tensor fasciae latae muscle is active at different times for different reasons, during walking some fibers are active while in the midswing for picking up your foot high enough (hip flexon) to clear the ground. While other fibers are active during the heal-strike (i.e. walking, jogging and sprinting) and in stepping up on a platform or climbing a ladder.

If you have feet that are over-pronated the TFL muscle can also be subjected to chronic repetitive overuse injuries with running uphill or downhill or with running on un-even surfaces. The major problem that leads to TFL trigger points are the neighbors that the tensor fasciae latae shares with; the glute medius, glute maximus and iliopsoas and the imbalances of these muscles. When you sit for prolonged period of time the glute and hip flexors muscles become inhibited (weak) thus making the TFL musculature responsible for picking up the slack. The TFL is a relative small muscle unable to handle the job left by weak glute medius muscle.

With a weak or inhibited glute medius muscle not only will your TFL become tight, over-worked and facilitated but so will your quadratus lumborum muscle. This is very easy recognize because clients will stand with a forward tilt to their pelvis and an increase lumbar lordosis.

Muscle attachments:

Origin: Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS)

Insertion: Iliotibial Band fascia and top of the tibia.

Muscle Action:

The TFL has no primary function but it assists in flexion of the hip, abducts and medially rotates the thigh (inward rotation of your femur). And it also assists in stabilizing outside of the knee.

Muscle weakness:

Sitting for prolonged periods of time with your your hips flexed at 90 degrees or more may be painful and intolerable for some individuals. Tensor fasciae latae weakness may also be visible with an increase upward tilt of pelvis higher on the weak side with a downward depression on the short tight side. Some individuals may also find it very painful to stand on the leg with active TrP’s and sleeping in a fetal position will also be affected by painful trigger points.

Corrective Actions:

Correcting all the muscle imbalances of the surrounding muscles that act and/or influence the actions of the pelvis and hip must be considered and corrected to have any success in treating active trigger points of the TFL.

Avoid prolonged sitting with your hips flexed in a “jackknifed” position and when you do sit try and lean back against the back of the chair to open up the angle of the hip. Sitting towards to the front of the chair can also serve the same function of opening up the angle of your hips. Using a wedge can also be helpful.

Its also very important to avoid walking or running uphills because in doing so requires that you lean forward with your hips in a semi flexed position. Running on surfaces that are sloped from side to side should also be avoided or at the very least run back on the same side of the sloped road (i.e running with your back facing traffic and running back facing the traffic).

Hip extension will be limited in the joint capsule due to tight TFL and hip flexors muscles, so stretching the muscles that limit this action should be addressed before any strengthening of the muscles that extend the hip. And this also includes de-activating active trigger points in the short, tight hip flexors (iliopsoas) and TFL muscles.

Massage Therapy:

Pain from the tensor fasciae latae muscle can be relieved with therapeutic massage by releasing painful trigger points and elongating the TFL muscle. At Roman Paradigm Massage & Therapy, we strive to help you live pain-free. So when you decide that living with pain and dysfunction is NOT something that, you want to continue experiencing call us (408) 247-1169.

Massage Rate:

  • 60 min session = $90
  • 75 min. session = $105 (recommended length)
  • 90 min. session = $130 (recommended length)
  • 120 minute massage = $180

 References:

  • “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction; The Trigger Point Manual” Janet G. Travell, M.D. & David G. Simons, M.D.
  • “The Muscle Book” by Paul Blakey
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