The tibialis anterior is a muscle in the lower leg that plays a prominent role in shin splints. Shin pain, traveling down the front of the leg, into the front of the ankle, and the big toe indicates trigger points in the muscle.

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    Where Is The Tibialis Anterior Muscle?

    Tibialis Anterior Muscle Showing Trigger Point Locations

    The tibialis anterior lies along the outside of the shin bone (tibia). The muscle attaches to the top of the shin bone and descends 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 It Control?

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

    For detailed anatomy information:  Tibialis Anterior Anatomy


    Tibialis Anterior Muscles Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Tibialis Anterior Referred Pain Pattern
    • 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
    • It can be a cause of weak ankles
    • Can contribute to drop foot, which can cause tripping and falling

    TWD Recommends

    Neo G Medical Grade VCS Calf Support/Shin Splint provides support and warmth to the lower leg muscles. This brace is recommended for strains, sprains, and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. An excellent choice for compression and support of the tibialis anterior. If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots, consult your doctor before using this brace.

    What Causes Tibialis Anterior Trigger Points To Develop?

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

    TWD Recommends

    Sore shins or calves? Feel as if shin splints are coming on? The ProStretch Calf Stretcher & Foot Rocker can help! The stretcher/rocker stretches and helps to relax most of the muscles in the lower leg and foot. Physical therapists use it to treat sore shins and calves as well as foot pain and plantar fasciitis.

    Tibialis Anterior Trigger Point Treatment

    The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is a resource to treat trigger point muscle pain throughout the body. The workbook includes diagrams and instructions on locating trigger points in each muscle and the method to treat those specific trigger points.

    The book recommends using one of two tools because the trigger points found in the tibialis anterior are deep in the muscle and require deep pressure.

    The first is the Thera Cane Massager that can be used on muscles throughout the body. The cane allows you to treat muscles in the back, hips, and feet that you may not be able to reach. It is the most versatile tool of the two recommended.

    The second tool is The Knobble that provides targeted pressure to specific trigger points in muscles that you can easily reach. The Knobble works exceptionally well to treat muscles in the legs and feet.

    If you are uncomfortable trying self-treatment, find a massage therapist, chiropractor, or physical therapist who knows trigger point therapy. They will show you how to find the muscle, the trigger point and show you how to treat the TrP.

    For a successful outcome, tibialis anterior trigger points need treatment 2-3 times throughout the day. Continue the therapy until applying pressure to the area does not cause pain or symptoms.

    Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. If you have reoccurring leg or foot cramps, you should keep Somba on hand; it provides almost instant relief. (Not sold in stores)

    Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain-relieving gel recommend 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. If your pain is from a recent injury, use Biofreeze. It is excellent to use on sprains, strained and sore ankles.

    Interesting facts:

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

    Tibialis anterior muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Anterior compartment syndrome
    • Shin splints
    • Diabetic neuropathy
    • Hammertoe
    • Claw toes
    • Gout
    • Turf toe
    • Foot drop


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the tibialis anterior muscle:

    Trigger points in the tibialis anterior muscle will cause TrPs to develop in other muscles. These are known as satellite trigger points. You will need to check these muscles for additional TrPs.

    • Flexor Digitorum Longus
    • Flexor Hallucis Longus
    • Peroneal Muscles
    • Extensor Hallucis Longus


    TWD Recommends

    Lower Leg Compression Sleeves are used by many athletes. Compression sleeves provide compression, support, and warmth without adding bulk to the lower leg. Athletic trainers recommend sleeves for shin splint, strained calf muscles, and overuse injuries of the lower leg muscles. After sports activities, sleeves are also great as a preventative measure against shin splints and tired sore calf muscles. Compression sleeves are also shown to reduce recovery time after strenuous activities and injury.

    Note: If you suspect or have ever been diagnosed with blood clots, consult your doctor before using compression sleeves or braces.

    Muscle That Can Contribute To These Symptoms:

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    Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

    Extensor Hallucis Longus
    Extensor Digitorum Longus