There are a select few things that really bother me when it comes to body care/ Strength training, and Foam Rolling the IT band is one of them.
I'm not really sure where the whole idea of using the foam roller on a fiberous piece of connective tissue came from, but I would venture to guess that someone felt it was painful, just as with other areas with the foam roller, and figured it must be good.
Why does this grind my gears so much?
Because if you're foam rolling your IT band, you're wasting valuable time on doing something with minimal return for that injury.
What's the deal?
The IT band is simply the Tendon that connects your Gluteus Maximus, and your Tensor Fascia Lattae to your knee, thus allowing them to do their jobs of resisting internal rotation & Knee Valgus, and allowing hip extension and Hip flexion/Abduction.
When one is foam rolling the "IT band" really what you're doing is releasing the Vastus Laeralis, and applying tension/ pressure onto this long fibrous tendon. While releasing the Vastus Laterals may help a little, what you really need to be focusing in on, is the glute medius and Tensor Fascia lattae on the lateral (outside) of the hip.
These two muscles, along with Iliacus and Psoas tightness, tend to be prime suspects in the lateral (outer) knee pain department. Other common culprits include, but are not limited to :
-Weak Abdomen (Transverse Abdominus, External and/or Internal Obliques, and Rectus Femoris)
-Poor postural habits (due to sitting most of the day, how set up on bike)
-Weak Gluteal Muscles (this can cause all type of issues)
-Poor anti-rotary stability (the bodies ability to resists a twisting force at the pelvis or torso)
Foam rolling can be incredibly productive, and extremely useful in allowing an athlete to maintain, or achieve a more advantageous resting muscle length- which is an integral part of unlocking peak performances and decreasing risk of injuries- as well as allow the athlete to gain a better sense of "hot spots" in their bodies throughout a season, as well as their careers.
No, foam rolling alone does NOT "rehab and injury back to health". While it is a part of the equation, the other parts include Strengthening the muscles which are not as strong as they need to be, as well as improving posture and breathing. Combine these ingredients along with proper rest, recovery, sleep, and nutrition, and you are now on the "Rehab train".
One other note of significance, is that you should not spend a lot of time only working on one side of the body (unless under the supervision of a Physical Therapist and/or Athletic Trainer whom is overseeing your Rehab process), as this can lead to imbalances at the joints due to one side of the bodies muscles (those being rolled) having a different resting length due to the prolonged rolling.
If you like the way you feel after rolling your IT band, go ahead an keep on doing (unless you're having other pains/discomforts, in which case seek out the help of a Strength Coach, or PT/AT. Just be sure that you are not relying on only the foam rolling to keep you performing strong and healthy- that takes a balance of strength, mobility, and recovery.