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Knee pain can seriously limit our ability to exercise, play sports, and enjoy the outdoors with our families. While there are many problems that can lead to debilitating knee pain, one of the most common is IT band syndrome.
As massage guns gain popularity for managing a number of problems, you might be wondering if you can use a massage gun for IT band syndrome.
We definitely think that you can, but knowing all of the specifics is key to getting success when using your massage gun for IT band pain.
In this article, we break down what IT band syndrome is, when (and when not) to break out your massage gun, and some of our favorite devices for getting the job done.
Without further ado…
In This Article hide
- What is IT Band Syndrome?
- Should You Use A Massage Gun for IT Band Syndrome?
- How to Massage IT Band With Massage Gun
- How To Choose The Right Device
- Best Massage Guns for IT Band Pain
- Theragun for IT Band Syndrome?
- Final Thoughts
Why Trust Us?
Massage guns are fairly new technology, and research is still underway to prove many of the common uses for massage guns. However, you can rest assured that we are massage gun experts with lots of experience in the field, and we’re constantly looking for the most accurate massage gun information.
This post is written by a licensed physiotherapist, Dr. Alex Stone, DPT. We recommend consulting your medical doctor before using advice from this article.
What is IT Band Syndrome?
Let’s start with some anatomy.
Your iliotibial tract, or iliotibial band (shortened to IT band), is a very thick and fibrous band of connective tissue that attaches your hip to your knee (from the greater trochanter to a bump named Gerdy’s tubercle, in case you were interested).
The main purpose of your IT band is to provide stability throughout your leg, playing a big role in running and sports.
The term “IT band syndrome” (ITBS) is used when the IT band becomes excessively irritated due to repetitive stress. This typically occurs because the IT band is excessively tight, forcing it to rub along the outer edge of the knee during repetitive activities like walking, cycling, and running (1).
Unfortunately, IT band syndrome is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in runners, and the second most common running injury overall (2).
Depending on the severity of symptoms, most athletes will need to take a period of relative rest (decreased activity) to allow time for healing before returning to their favorite activities.
Traditional methods for treating IT band syndrome can be very effective. For example, a regular bout of physical therapy may include targeted massage of the leg, hip or knee strengthening exercises, stretches for the hip and thigh, or hot/cold therapies (depending on the stage).
So now you’re probably wondering: “are massage guns good for IT band?” and, more importantly, “can I use a massage gun on my IT band?”
We think so. As a direct extension of traditional massage, percussive therapy devices (aka massage guns) are becoming a very popular option for managing IT band syndrome.
Should You Use A Massage Gun for IT Band Syndrome?
Although massage guns aren’t heavily researched yet, when properly used, we can compare their effects on muscle recovery and rehab to those of a traditional deep-tissue massage for a given body area (3).
In the case of IT band syndrome, massage can be helpful because it relieves muscular tension, helps disrupt pain patterns, and improves circulation around irritated or injured sites.
It’s important to note that the effects from massage are generally temporary and require repeat massage sessions or use of your massage gun.
However, regular massage can make exercises and stretching more tolerable, which are the key component to getting lasting results.
One very important concept to understand while using your massage gun for IT band pain is that, while the IT band may be very tight, it’s very unlikely that massage can “stretch” the IT band.
This is because the IT band is a strong structure that can resist thousands of pounds, so a little massage probably won’t change its shape.
Don’t worry though, because massaging areas around the IT band (TFL muscle, borders of the hamstring and quads) is likely to get some positive results for relaxing the side of your hip, thigh and knee. Just don’t spend all of your energy whacking away directly on the IT band.
How to Massage IT Band With Massage Gun
Wondering how to use massage gun on IT band? Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use your massage gun for 1-2 minutes on each muscle group.
- Make sure your leg is relaxed before applying pressure.
- Apply enough pressure for mild discomfort – avoid pain.
- Never use your massage gun directly on the bone.
How To Choose The Right Device
There are literally hundreds of percussive therapy devices on the market today, making it very challenging to decide which massage gun is best for our needs.
Let us give you some tips on how to choose the best IT band massage gun.
When you’re choosing a massage gun for IT band pain, you’ll want to focus on two key features: stall force and amplitude.
Stall force is the amount of force required to ‘stall’ your massage gun during use.
Devices with a higher stall force, usually over 35 lbs, are especially effective for achieving deep tissue massage on larger muscle groups like your quads and hamstrings.
Devices with lower stall force (under 30 pounds) tend to be more useful for working on smaller muscle groups like your calves.
In our opinion, you don’t need the most powerful gun in terms of stall force to work on IT band syndrome. For a great IT band massage gun, we recommend something that stays above 40 lbs of stall force to ensure that larger muscle groups can be worked on adequately without stalling the device.
Ultimately, you just need a device that won’t slow down or stop working when applying normal amounts of pressure to your thighs. However, this amount will change significantly depending on the size of the user, meaning bigger people may need a device with more stall force.
Amplitude is the amount of distance traveled by the head of your massage gun with each percussion.
Similar to stall force, higher-amplitude devices (over 10mm) are more useful for getting deep massage on larger body areas, while lower-amplitude devices tend to be used on more delicate areas of the body.
We think it’s especially important to use a massage gun with higher amplitude, 10mm or more, to get the best results massaging the large muscle groups surrounding your IT band.
We typically don’t recommend low-amplitude devices for this purpose unless they are high-revving devices with adequate stall force. Unfortunately, many manufacturers will overstate their percussion speeds, which is why we verify every device using a laser tachometer.
It’s important to know that devices with higher amplitude tend to rev slower, trading speed for depth of their hits. Conversely, devices with lower amplitude tend to rev much faster (up to 3300 RPM), trading deep hits for constant vibration.
If you want true percussive therapy for massaging around your IT band, we recommend staying at or above 10mm of amplitude in most cases.
Related Also check out our guide to the best massage gun for runners
Best Massage Guns for IT Band Pain
So, which massage gun devices we think are the best for IT band syndrome? Let’s find out.
Ekrin B37 – Our #1 Choice
Ekrin seriously delivers on this device, and we absolutely love it for managing IT band syndrome pain.
More powerful than most devices on the market today, this massage gun delivers 57lbs of stall force – but only if you want it to. This means that while you can seriously dig into larger muscle groups like your quadriceps and hamstrings, you can also reduce the pressure and work on small areas like your calves.
Overall, this is a very versatile massage gun for IT band pain, and in our opinion, also the best value percussion massager currently on the market.
Despite its high stall force, the Ekrin B37 can rev at 3200 RPM (verified by us) to provide consistent massage intensity during use.
This device comes stock with a great set of attachments, including a large ball and flat head to cover the larger surfaces of your thighs.
Aside from the excellent build quality, one of our favorite features is Ekrin’s lifetime warranty, which is hard to come by in this industry.
Ekrin B37 retails for $229.99 but we have a coupon available. Apply the MGA20 code at checkout and save 20% – you will only pay $183.99. Get it at Ekrin store here.
Read More Read our hands-on Ekrin B37 review to see learn more and see more close-up photos.
Achedaway Pro – Also Great
Another favorite device of ours for IT band syndrome is the Achedaway Pro. Few devices compare to this one, and you can find it in physiotherapy clinics everywhere for a good reason.
Most importantly, this massage gun packs 60lbs of stall force while also delivering 16mm of amplitude in every percussion – that’s performance that few companies other than Theragun can deliver on.
To compensate for its power, the Achedaway Pro reaches a speed of 2700 RPM. While this is slower than other options like the B37, it’s still very impressive for the overall specs of this device.
This massage gun comes with two metal attachments, one of which is a flat head that you’ll likely use a lot for managing IT band syndrome.
We also really like that Achedaway has included a soft, bouncy attachment to address more sensitive areas around your IT band.
This isn’t a small device, it also weighs more than Ekrin B37, but it is worth it. It is also unbelievably hushed – one of the quietest percussion massagers.
Achedaway Pro normally costs $299, but our exclusive MGA50 coupon slashes the price by $50 to $249. Buy at achedaway.com here.
Read More Read our hands-on Achedaway Pro review for more details, photos and comparisons to other popular devices.
Theragun for IT Band Syndrome?
It’s no secret that Therabody makes great massage guns, and they should be seriously considered for all of your recovery and performance needs. However, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
First, these are high-amplitude devices. Similar to the Achedaway Pro, full-sized Theraguns pack 16mm of amplitude and up to 60lbs of stall force, making them feel very punchy during use (only the Theragun mini offers 12mm of amplitude).
Second, Theraguns are loud compared to other devices on the market in 2022. For example, Theragun’s smallest model, the mini, is still louder than the Achedaway Pro (which is twice as powerful).
It’s also important to note that Theragun doesn’t offer very competitive warranties with its devices, averaging at one year for most models. Compared to the lifetime warranty from Ekrin, or the two-year warranty from Achedaway, this isn’t very impressive to us.
Qualms aside, Theragun is still a top option in the massage gun world.
One of the best features of their full-size models is the quality and variety of attachments. These include standard designs like the ball and flat attachments, but Theragun also offers less common attachments like the wedge and thumb, which are carefully designed.
New attachment releases can be purchased separately, including the SuperSoft attachment, which is awesome for addressing highly sensitive areas.
All full-sized Theragun models have an ergonomic triangular handle design, which is among the best for maneuvering hard-to-reach areas of the body. Theragun also offers a very intuitive phone app with guided routines for treating specific body regions or problems – IT band syndrome, anyone?
Other than that, Theragun devices are just massage guns like any other with similar specifications. But which one is the best Theragun for IT band syndrome?
Best Theragun for IT Band – Prime
In our opinion, Theragun Prime will be the best Theragun for IT band syndrome because it offers a nice balance of stall force and amplitude, and doesn’t cost a fortune.
For those who need a little extra, or who have much larger thighs, we recommend going one tier up for the Theragun Elite – 10lbs. more stall force, and more fancy features.
Use the X8YZF10 code at therabody.com to get $10 off.
The biggest difference between Theragun models is their stall force, starting under 20lbs for the mini and working up to 60lbs for the PRO.
We don’t recommend the mini for IT band syndrome because it probably won’t offer enough stall force to massage the larger muscles of the thigh. We also think that the PRO could be overkill for the needs of most users, especially given its weight and $600 price tag.
It’s important to clarify that we do recommend Theragun for IT band syndrome, especially if cost isn’t a big issue. There’s no doubt that you are getting industry-leading percussive massage therapy with a Theragun device.
However, we think many competitors offer better value in 2022. Companies like Ekrin and Achedaway are now offering devices with similar performance to Theragun at half the price, and that’s hard to ignore.
In short, you won’t regret buying a Theragun for IT band syndrome – just know that you have options.
We really hope that we’ve answered some of the most popular questions around using your massage gun for IT band syndrome.
Whether you’re trying to use your massage gun for IT band pain, looking to improve your exercise recovery, or just searching for the best IT band massage gun devices on the market today, the information and recommendations in this article should help you get there.
Do you have experience using your massage gun for IT band syndrome? Let us know by leaving a comment below! .
Need more? Browse our other massage gun reviews, or visit respective Ekrin and Achedaway product pages, and scroll down to the bottom to read some first-hand reviews from actual users (often with photos).
You can also review our all-inclusive Theragun Comparison for more information about popular Theragun models.
Thank you for reading!
- Strauss, E. J., Kim, S., Calcei, J. G., & Park, D. (2011). Iliotibial band syndrome: evaluation and management. The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 19(12), 728–736. Link: https://doi.org/10.5435/00124635-201112000-00003
- Baker, R. L., & Fredericson, M. (2016). Iliotibial Band Syndrome in Runners: Biomechanical Implications and Exercise Interventions. Physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics of North America, 27(1), 53–77.
- Konrad, A., Glashüttner, C., Reiner, M. M., Bernsteiner, D., & Tilp, M. (2020). The Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment with a Hypervolt Device on Plantar Flexor Muscles’ Range of Motion and Performance. Journal of sports science & medicine, 19(4), 690–694.
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