If you’ve been to a physical therapist for consultation or treatment of a sports related injury, you’ve likely noticed all of the “toys” strewn about the facility. There are rubber bands, sticks, balls, straps, benches, and other colorful items.
In a recent visit to a physical therapist for an Iliotibial (IT) Band problem, the therapist introduced me to an IT band foam roller. This is a hard, closed-cell foam tube about 6 inches in diameter and 2 or 3 feet long. It is designed to massage your outer thigh and help prevent the pain associated with your IT band rubbing against your femur near your knee. I was instructed on how to use the roller and trusted that it might help with pain I experience from running.
Rather than to initiate daily visits to a PT, I made a mental note on the size and shape of the IT Band foam roller and decided to make my own for home use. The first thing that came to mind was a Funnoodle. These are the colorful foam tubes sold as a pool toys. But, I recalled that Funnoodles have a diameter too small to match the roller at the therapist’s office.
I visited my local Meijer to look for other pool or boating devices that might suffice. It turns out that Jakks Pacific, Inc. produces the DoubleFun Funnoodle toy that I thought would do the trick. It consists of a standard foam Funnoodle with two larger diameter cylinders on each end – not unlike a pugil stick. The foam seemed to have the appropriate firmness as well, so I bought one.
Back at home, I noticed that with a little pressure the Funnoodle collapsed in the center. No, problem… I had an old broom with a wooden handle that I could stuff in the hole to help hold it’s shape. So, with that confidence, I trekked into my garage and sawed off both ends of the Funnoodle. Then I measured and cut a length of broom stick that would fit inside each end-piece.
I tried my new DIY IT Band Foam Roller on a hard surface in my house and it worked! It felt exactly the same as what I felt at the therapists. The DoubleFun Funnoodle cost $8 and I was able to make two IT band foam rollers from it. Compare this to single IT band rollers that cost anywhere from $10 to $40 each. (See PerformBetter.com.)
It’s been said that when looking for an IT band foam roller you want to find one with a really strong core. Through regular use, the foam will break down and lose it’s effectiveness. Hopefully with a wood core, the Funnoodle roller will last a while. I’ve also heard of particulary masochistic people using Nalgene bottles. I think if you’re thigh is bruised from rolling on something like a Nalgene bottle, it’s time to start rethinking your therapy.
Sports Center Austin offers an alternative viewpoint on the source of IT band pain in this article: Stubborn Iliotibial Band, and Part II, As the Hip Turns. As always, consult a physician before trying any physical therapy or exercises.