“If you see what is small as it sees itself, and accept what is weak for what strength it has, and use what is dim for the light it gives then all will go well. This is called acting naturally.” – Lao-Tsu
When you see the iliotibial band in most anatomy books, what you are seeing is the artist’s depiction.
You are seeing an incomplete (and simplified!) drawing that leads you to believe that the iliotibial band is lying in the frontal plane. Yes, it does in fact present itself that way, but only from that vantage point.
The iliotibial band is essentially a long tendon that covers the entire length of your thigh and beyond, i.e., what Thomas Myers refers to as the spiral line in his game changing book, Anatomy Trains.
The iliotibial band is the distal tendon of your gluteus maximus and the tensor fascia latae (TFL), and serves as an extension of both. But even that is misleading in many ways and leads to false assumptions, i.e., stretching and foam rolling.
Ultimately, the anatomy texts’ interpretation of the iliotibial band does not give this live tissue the credit and respect that it deserves in human function, e.g., running.
If you ever have an opportunity to dissect a fresh cadaver; make a longitudinal incision from the level of the pubic bone to just above the patella on the anterior thigh, then pull everything back. Once you get through skin, adipose tissue (fat) etc., you will see a thin white layer of fascia that is truly an eye opener! It is unlike anything you have ever imagined and of course, gives you a much bigger appreciation for the human body.
Now that you have reached the level of this thin fascia that also appears to be very strong, all you have to do is use your hands to follow it as it wraps around the girth of the thigh.
The truth is, the iliotibial band is within the white layer of fascia that is surrounding all of the individual muscles that make up the thigh musculature, e.g., hamstrings (4), adductors (5) and quadriceps (4).