The tibialis anterior is an important muscle at the anterior compartment of the lower leg.
Active trigger points in this muscle can cause pain in the big toe and in the ankle joint. Particularly affected are runners and indoor athletes.
However, you can treat these points and pain with a self-massage.
On this page you will learn how to do this, and much more.
Tensions in the tibialis anterior can lead to pain, sensitivity to pressure and a feeling of tension in the tibia (shin bone).
Trigger points, on the other hand, refer the pain into the big toe and into the anterior middle area of the ankle.
Shin pain may also occur, but it’s not the primary pain caused by this muscle.
Besides pain, people with trigger points in this muscle complain about …
All these problems can have the same myofascial origin, namely trigger points. Trigger points in a muscle often impair the control over a muscle and its function, respectively.
This means it cannot be “properly” controlled by the nervous system.
The function of the tibialis anterior is, among others, to pull the back of the foot upwards.
If this function is impaired, the symptoms described above, such as tripping, are likely to occur.
The muscle extends from the anterior lower leg down to the medial side of the foot.
Trigger points occur mainly in the upper third of the muscle.
In the following, I name the functions of the muscle and illustrate them with pictures.
Then I’ll give you everyday examples for these functions.
Short overview of the functions
Note: In order to perform its function, the muscle has to contract.
Dorsiflexion means that the back of the foot is pulled towards the shin, but also the other way is possible, with the shin moving towards the foot.
This movement can occur with a free foot, for example if you are sitting on a chair, or with a grounded foot if you are standing on the ground and move your shin forward over your toes.
In everyday life this movement/function is needed for:
If you shift too far back when standing, your shin will also move back.
The tibialis anterior can prevent this and pull you forward again by approaching the shin to the back of the foot, respectively.
As soon as your heel touches the ground, the tibialis contracts in order to prevent the sole of your foot from “clapping” abruptly on the ground.
This means holds the back of the foot pulled upwards. During the “rolling movement” of the foot, it contracts while it gets longer (eccentric contraction), thus controlling the movement.
The supination is important to stabilize the ankle joint when the foot is grounded.
When standing, walking and running, forces always act on the ankle which “want” to push it inwards or outwards.
The supination counteracts the forces that would push the ankle joint into an X-position (valgus stress).
The tibialis anterior is made for continuous work (it contains 2/3 slow-twitch fibers type I) and is therefore less frequently overstrained in everyday life.
Still, intense sports and trauma can overload the muscle and activate trigger points.
These occur mainly in indoor sports. A sticky floor and sticky shoes ensure fast start-stop movements and quick changes of direction. The ankle joint needs to be stabilized and the tibialis has to perform at its best. This can activate trigger points!
These occur mainly in indoor sports. A sticky floor and sticky shoes ensure extremely fast start-stop movements and quick changes of direction.
The ankle joint has to be stabilized and the tibialis has to perform at its best. This can overload it!
You will find these especially in endurance sports.
For the tibialis, for example, running is very demanding. With each step it must contract eccentrically (contraction during elongation/stretch) to stabilize the ankle and to ensure a smooth rolling motion.
These movements are very monotonous when running in the plane. With trail running, on the other hand, they are more diverse.
Still, trail running involves running downhill, which is very demanding for the anterior tibialis, too.
Mainly fractures of the lower leg need to be mentioned.
A fracture can press the tibia against the tibialis anterior and activate trigger points due to the mechanical stress.
Feeling the muscle is easy. Proceed as follows:
You can massage the tibialis anterior in several ways, using different devices and techniques.
On this page, I will show you how to massage it with a small foam roller using precise rolling movements.
This massage is well suited for beginners.
I recommend using a small roller for the massage, for example the BlackRoll Mini or the AchillX.
The massage is possible with a common foam roller, too, but not very comfortable, because they are larger in diameter – which puts your leg in a very high position.