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Tibialis Anterior Muscle: Big Toe, Ankle, Shin Pain

Tibialis Anterior Pain Pattern

Pain in the shin traveling down through the ankle and into the big toe can signal tibialis anterior muscle dysfunction.

What are the pain and symptoms associated with the tibialis anterior muscle?

  • Pain in the big toe
  • Pain in the front of the ankle going up the front of the shin
  • Walking makes pain in the toe, ankle and shin worse
  • Occasionally there will be swelling of the shin bone
  • Can contribute to shin splints
  • Can be a cause of weak ankles
  • Can contribute to drop foot which can cause tripping and falling

Where is the tibialis anterior muscle?

The tibialis anterior lies along the outside of the shinbone (tibia). The muscle attaches to the top of the shinbone and descends down the leg, following the outside of the bone. The muscle’s tendon crosses the top of the foot by the inside ankle and connects to two bones  (medial cuneiform and first metatarsal) on the bottom of the foot.

What movements does the tibialis anterior control?

  • Turns the bottom of the foot inward
  • Bends the foot up toward the body via the ankle

Activities that cause tibialis anterior muscle pain and symptoms:

  • Running or walking on uneven ground
  • Climbing
  • Toe tripping
  • Shin splints
  • Sitting with with feet tucked back under the chair
  • Muscle often becomes painful after an ankle sprain
  • Long drives with your foot constantly pressing the accelerator

Interesting facts about the tibialis anterior muscle:

  • Trigger points and a tight shortened tibialis anterior can make it difficult to pick up the foot and can contribute to ‘tripping over your own feet’.
  • Pain from trigger points in the tibialis anterior is sometimes diagnosed as gout or turf toe.
  • Is often the primary cause of  "growing" pains in the feet and ankles of children.
Tibialis Anterior

You use the tibialis anterior muscle when you turn the bottom of your foot inward and when you bend your foot up toward your body.

Clinical diagnoses to which the tibialis anterior muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • L4 or L5 radiculopathy
  • Anterior compartment syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Hammer toe
  • Claw toes
  • Gout
  • Turf toe
  • Foot drop

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the tibialis anterior muscles:

Satellite Trigger Points: Flexor Digitorum Longus, Flexor Hallucis Longus, Peroneal Muscles, Extensor Hallucis Longus

For more information see: Tibialis Anterior Function and Anatomy

Help with Tibialis Anterior Muscle Pain

Cold Therapy Gel For Lower Leg Ankle and Foot Injury and Pain

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I recommend it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries. It is better to use than warm therapy gels and creams for muscle pain caused by inflammation as it cools the area much like ice. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If your low leg pain includes the shin, ankle, top of the foot and big toe, rub Biofreeze down the front of the leg, into the ankle and down the front of the foot to the toe for pain relief.

Biofreeze is recommended for recent tibialis anterior muscle injury

Hot Cold Pack For Lower Leg Treatment

CorPak Soft Comfort Hot & Cold Pack Wrap is a versatile pack that can be used to treat the lower leg, foot / ankle, as well as other areas of the body. The pack is filled with pliable gel and has a soft frost free cover that will not irritate your skin. For recent injuries, use it cold to reduce swelling. For older injures or chronic pain use heat to relax the muscles and increase circulation. Wrap the pack around the front of the lower leg for 20 minutes then wrap the ankle and foot for an additional 20 minutes for full treatment of the tibialis anterior muscle.


Warm Therapy Gel For Lower Leg Pain

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. It provides warmth without burning heat and works very well for relieving tightness and pain. Applying Sombra to the muscles on the front of the leg, around the ankle, and down to the top of the foot can help reduce pain and tightness caused by the tibialis anterior muscle and shin splints. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and pain from arthritis.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides pain relief for sore shins and shin splints.

Graduated Compression Socks for Support and Injury Recovery

Eurosocks Over The Calf Compression Socks have become a go-to for both amateur and professional athletes for lower leg, ankle and foot injury recovery. Graduated compression helps relieve pain from muscle stiffness and soreness as well as discouraging inflammation. The socks wickable fabric keeps skin dry and DryStat technology inhibits the growth of odor causing microbes. The over the calf style works very well for tibialis anterior muscle support and recovery as the sock will cover the entire muscle. If you suspect or have been treated for blood clots, consult with a doctor before using compression on the lower legs.

Over the calf graduated compression socks provide support for tibialis anterior muscles

Yoga Toes Help Relax The Muscles of the Lower Leg

I recommend Yoga Toes Gems for many of my clients who are dealing with foot and/or lower leg pain. The separators not only stretch the muscles of the feet, but also many muscles of the lower leg, including the tibialis anterior. Used regularly, Yoga Toes do actually help straighten and align your toes. I prefer the Yoga Toes Gems because they are more supple, comfortable and easier to use. To increase therapeutic treatment relax while wearing Yoga Toes and them use the massage balls (below) which will have a relaxing and pain relieving effect on the muscle of the lower legs.

Yoga Toes Gems help stretch and relax the tibialis anterior muscle

Massage Balls To Relieve Foot Pain

Massage balls can be used to relieve tension in many areas of the body and are exceptionally effective for your feet and lower leg tension. I like the Magnificent Rose Massage Ball Set. The set includes a smooth ball and two spiked balls which will give you maximum treatment for various aches and pains. The balls are sturdy and can deliver very firm pressure when needed. The set comes with instructions and exercises. Rolling your feet takes just a few minutes each day and can deliver excellent results for both foot and lower leg pain.

Massage Balls for foot pain attributed to the tibialis anterior muscle

Self Treatment For Shin and Low Leg Pain

Do you know that small knots and other dysfunction in the tibialis anterior contribute to shin splints and pain in the lower leg going into the foot and big toe?

If you have shin splints, low leg, ankle, and foot pain, I recommend that you purchase Claire Davies The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief.. Mr. Davies explains the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language. But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain, how to find the trigger point and treat it. If you suffer from unresolved lower leg, shin splints, and foot pain I highly recommend this book. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in finding the cause and self-treating muscle pain.

The Trigger Point Workbook provides treatment techniques for tibialis anterior muscle and shin splints

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