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Introduction

The thighs in the lower half of the body work together with the hips to stabilize the legs when the body is in motion. The thighs and the hips also support the weight of the upper half of the body and are surrounded by muscles, ligaments, and nerve roots to supply blood and sensory-motor function to the legs. One of the thigh muscles that work with the hips is the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle. When the thigh muscles are being overused or suffer from injuries, tiny nodules known as trigger points (myofascial pain syndrome) can affect a person’s ability to function worldwide. Today’s article examines what the tensor fasciae latae muscles do, how myofascial pain syndrome affects the thighs, and various stretches/techniques for the thighs. We refer patients to certified providers who incorporate multiple methods in the lower body extremities, like thigh pain treatments correlating to trigger points, to aid individuals dealing with pain symptoms along the tensor fasciae latae muscle. We encourage and appreciate patients by referring them to associated medical providers based on their diagnosis, especially when it is appropriate. We understand that education is an excellent solution to asking our providers complex questions at the patient’s request. Dr. Jimenez, D.C., utilizes this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer

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What Does The Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle Do?

 

Do you have difficulty walking for a long period? So you feel that your hips feel unstable when you move? Or do you feel radiating pain down from your thighs to your knees? Thigh pain associated with these symptoms can affect a person’s ability to move around from one location to another due to trigger points affecting the tensor fasciae latae muscle. The tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles are located at the proximal anterolateral thigh and originate from the anterior superior iliac spine. The TFL muscle is between the superficial and deep muscle fibers of the iliotibial (IT) band, as its attachment assists with knee flexion and lateral rotation. The TFL muscles also work together with the gluteus muscles in various hip movements. Studies reveal that the primary function of the TFL muscles is providing balance to the body’s weight and the non-weight-bearing leg to walk. The TFL muscles allow the individual to walk, run, and assist with movement and stabilization to the hips and knees without pain inflicted on the joints and muscles. 

 

Myofascial Pain Syndrome Affecting The Thighs

Since the TFL muscles allow the person to walk and run, this muscle can become overused and strained through repetitive motions causing many issues to the hips, knees, and thighs. When these issues affect the TFL muscles, they can develop nodules along the muscle fibers known as trigger points or myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a musculoskeletal disorder that can invoke referred pain in one location of the body while affecting the surrounding muscles in a different body location. Myofascial pain syndrome associated with the TFL muscles can cause issues to the hips, thighs, and knees while affecting a person’s ability to walk. Studies reveal that the prevalence of myofascial pain syndrome on the TFL muscles correlates to pain and disability in the thighs. When myofascial pain syndrome affects the TFL muscles, it can mimic chronic knee osteoarthritis. 

 

Even though myofascial pain syndrome is challenging to diagnose, it is treatable through various stretches and techniques. In Dr. Janet G. Travell, M.D.’s book, “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction,” it mentioned that when patients have active trigger points in their TFL muscles, they become aware of the referred pain affecting their hip joints and are unable to lie comfortably on their sides due to the body-weight pressure pressing on the affected TFL muscle. The book also points out that when pain is referred to from trigger points associated with the TFL muscles, it can be mistaken for pain in the glutes.

 


Trigger Point Of The Week: Tensor Fasciae Latae- Video

Have you been experiencing difficulty walking from one location to another? Do you feel pain in your thighs or knees? Or do you have a problem lying down on your side that is causing you pain? If you have been dealing with walking issues, it could be due to myofascial trigger pain in your tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscles affecting your ability to walk. The TFL muscles help provide stability to the hips and thighs and assist with knee flexion and lateral rotation. This muscle also allows people to walk and run without any pain inflicted on the joints and muscles. When repetitive motions start to cause the TFL muscles to become overused and strained, it can lead to myofascial pain syndrome or trigger points developing, causing referred pain to the thighs. The video above explains where the TFL muscles are located and where the trigger points on the TFL muscles are causing pain to the thighs. Myofascial pain syndrome can mimic other chronic conditions like knee osteoarthritis, which causes pain and disability to the lower half of the body.


Various Stretches & Techniques For The Thighs

 

Now myofascial pain syndrome is challenging to diagnose in an examination due to the referred pain affecting one location of the body than the actual source of where the pain is coming. However, it is treatable through various techniques and stretches for the thighs to restore leg mobility. Studies reveal that direct stretching of the TFL (tensor fasciae latae) muscles can reduce long-term pain effects on the hips, thighs, and lower back and improve hip and thigh mobility. Various stretches like hip extensions and laterally rotating the hips can break the myofascial trigger points in the TFL muscle. Using a foam roller on the hips can gently stretch and loosen the muscle fibers on the TFL and help warm up the muscle before working out. Sitting down correctly in a chair can help the hips from causing more muscle strain to the thighs and prevent the TFL muscles from being shortened. Incorporating these stretches and techniques can improve hip and thigh mobility in the legs, allowing the individual to walk or run without pain.

 

Conclusion

The TFL (tensor fasciae latae) muscles are located on the proximal anterolateral thigh between the IT (iliotibial) band, which assists with knee flexion and lateral rotation. The TFL muscle also works with the gluteal muscles and allows the person to walk, run, and help with stability movement to the hips and knees with inflicted pain on the joints and surrounding muscles. When the TFL muscles become overused, they can develop myofascial trigger pain on the TFL, causing referred hip, knee, and thigh pain. This can cause the individual not to be able to walk for long periods and think they might have osteoarthritis in the knees. Fortunately, people can incorporate various stretches and techniques to reduce the pain in the thighs and hips while managing myofascial trigger pain along the TFL muscles. These various stretches and techniques allow mobility back to the hips and thighs so the individual can walk without pain.

 

References

Gottschalk, F, et al. “The Functional Anatomy of Tensor Fasciae Latae and Gluteus Medius and Minimus.” Journal of Anatomy, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 1989, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1256751/.

Ohtsuki, Keisuke. “A 3-Month Follow-up Study of the Long-Term Effects of Direct Stretching of the Tensor Fasciae Latae Muscle in Patients with Acute Lumbago Using a Single-Case Design.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, The Society of Physical Therapy Science, May 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047246/.

Simons, D. G., and L. S. Simons. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual: Vol. 2:the Lower Extremities. Williams & Wilkins, 1999.

Sánchez Romero, Eleuterio A, et al. “Prevalence of Myofascial Trigger Points in Patients with Mild to Moderate Painful Knee Osteoarthritis: A Secondary Analysis.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 7 Aug. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7464556/.

Trammell, Amy P, et al. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Tensor Fasciae Muscle – NCBI Bookshelf.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 8 Aug. 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499870/.

Disclaimer

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The information herein on "Myofascial Pain Syndrome On The Tensor Fasciae Latae" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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