The tibialis anterior is a muscle situated on the front of your shin, and it primarily is responsible for ankle dorsiflexion, which is the up-and-down motion of your foot. The tibialis anterior muscle works in balance with the tibialis anterior tendon, which lies below the muscle near the ankle. An injury to this area can reduce flexibility and induce a great deal of pain until the injury is healed. Treatment usually involves complete rest from any activity that causes discomfort, the use of anti-inflammatory medication and ice therapy and possibly a course of physiotherapy, depending on the severity of your injury.
The most common tibialis anterior injury is tibialis anterior tendinitis. This injury occurs when large amounts of stress occur in the leg muscle, which overloads the capacity of the tendon. It usually is caused by strenuous physical activity, such as playing sports or running on hills or hard, uneven surfaces. You also might incur this injury with excessive tightening of strapping or shoe lacing, which can result in repeated rubbing and constriction of the tendon.
If you have incurred a tibialis anterior injury, you will experience gradually worsening pain. Pain usually occurs with any aggravating or strenuous activity, or after a period of rest following such an activity, frequently the morning after. Kneeling down or pointing your toes also might cause pain. To reduce pain and inflammation, you can take anti-inflammatory medication. If you are taking any other medication, if you suffer from any other condition, if you are pregnant or are breastfeeding, you should seek the advice of a health professional before taking any anti-inflammatory medication.
Following a regimen of rest, ice, compression and elevation, commonly known as RICE, can reduce pain and inflammation and might help to increase the rate of healing. Rest includes refraining from any activity that causes further pain. In cases of severe injury, rest can include the aid of crutches so that you minimize the use of the leg in which you sustained the tibialis anterior injury.
Crushed ice or ice packs wrapped in a cloth should be applied to the injury for 20 minutes every two to three hours for the first 48 hours or when swelling occurs, especially in the morning. You should consider applying a pressure bandage to your ankle to minimize further swelling, but the bandage should be removed immediately if you notice any color change in the foot or you experience a numbing or pins and needles sensation, because this indicates that the bandage is too tight and might be restricting your circulation. To further reduce swelling, you can elevate your foot, preferably above the level of your heart while resting. For example, you can use extra pillows to raise your foot while you are in bed.
If you experience severe, prolonged pain or see no improvement in your injury after one to two weeks, it might be advisable to seek the advice of a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist can provide you with exercises to aid the healing of your leg muscle, such as stretches, lunges and ankle flexes. Your course of physiotherapy also will help to strengthen your ankle and might teach you how to minimize the risk of further or repeated injury. You should never ignore a suspected tibialis anterior injury, because this can result in a severe worsening of the injury with further complications and more time required for healing and recuperation.