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If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort to your shins, it’s possible that you have tibialis anterior tendonitis.
The pain to the anterior muscle of your shin bone can sometimes be mistaken for shin splints but is actually caused by overuse or injury to the tendon that runs along the front of your shin.
Recommended Reading – 7 Best Ankle Stretching Exercises To Improve Foot Mobility
Whilst it’s important that the condition is diagnosed by a physical therapist, there are some specific anterior tibial tendonitis exercises you can perform to help stretch out and strengthen the shin muscles helping to alleviate symptoms.
In this article we’ll suggest some of the best anterior tibial tendonitis exercises that can be incorporated as part of your physical therapy.
Please remember to seek the advice from your health care provider so they can determine the best treatment plan based on your circumstances.
What Does Anterior Tibial Tendonitis Feel Like?
If you have anterior tibial tendonitis, you may experience pain and tenderness along the front of the ankle and foot.
This pain is as a result of inflammation or irritation of the anterior tibial tendon, which runs from your shin bone to the top of your foot.
Pain associated with tibialis anterior tendinopathy can worsen during certain daily activities such as walking, running, or climbing the stairs.
You may also feel a dull ache or burning sensation to the front of the shin or the outside of your lower leg, especially after physical activity.
In some cases, you may notice swelling or redness around the affected area.
If you have severe anterior tibial tendonitis, you may find it difficult to walk or perform everyday activities.
You may also feel anterior weakness in your ankle or foot, making it harder to balance or stand on your tiptoes.
Anterior tibialis tendonitis is often associated with medial tibial stress syndrome, which is a common overuse injury that affects runners and other athletes.
It can also be caused by a sudden injury to the anterior tibialis tendon, such as a fall or a twist of the ankle.
What Causes Anterior Tibial Tendonitis?
There are several factors and activities that can lead to the development of anterior tibial tendonitis including the below.
The repetitive impact placed on your lower leg muscles, especially when running on hard or uneven surfaces, can cause stress fractures which may lead to shin splint pain.
Weak Or Tight Muscles
If the calf muscle or anterior tibial muscles become tight this can limit the range of motion to your ankle joint.
Tight and weak muscles cause poor ankle mobility which can place additional stress on the tendons and surrounding muscles potentially leading to tendonitis.
What’s more, if you have a weak tibialis this could result in a high-stepping gait, sometimes known as foot drop.
This limits ankle dorsiflexion and overtime may lead to tendinopathy of the anterior tibialis.
If you often wear shoes that don’t provide good arch support and cushioning, this can negatively impact the biomechanics of your feet.
Aside from causing tendonitis, this has a much wider impact on the body including leg, knee, and back issues.
You may be more predisposed to anterior tibial tendonitis, especially if you’ve been born with abnormalities to the effecting the alignment of your legs and feet.
Anterior Tibial Tendonitis Exercises
To effectively treat anterior tibial tendonitis, it’s important to perform specific exercises that target the anterior tibialis muscle.
These anterior stretches and exercises can help to strengthen the muscle, decrease pain, and improve flexibility. Below are some recommended exercises that you can perform:
Wall Tib Raises
- Start off with your back resting against a wall.
- Place both feet approximately one foot in front of you keeping them flat on the ground to begin with.
- From here, raise your toes up towards the ceiling and then lower back down.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Dorsiflexion With Resistance Band
- Start off by anchoring a closed loop resistance band to the bottom of a door.
- Sitting on the ground, wrap the end of the band around the top of your foot.
- Sit far enough away from the door so there is resistance in the band.
- Place your hands on the ground for stability and slowly bring your toes towards your shin, stretching as far as possible.
- Pause briefly before lowering your foot back and pointing your toes towards the wall.
- Repeat this movement for 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions on each foot.
- Start by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forward.
- Raise your toes off the ground, keeping your heels planted firmly.
- Begin walking forward by taking small steps, make sure that your heels are the only part of your feet to make contact with the floor.
- Keep your head and chest up throughout and engage your core muscles for stability.
- Continue walking on your heels for around 60 seconds.
- As you become stronger, you can progress by increasing the duration of the exercise.
- Face a wall and place both hands on it so they are at shoulder width height.
- Adopt a staggered stance so one foot is closer to the wall with a bent knee. The other leg should be extended out behind and kept straight.
- From this starting position, carefully lower your upper body towards the wall.
- Make sure your keep your back leg straight throughout with foot flat on the ground. You should feel a stretch down your calf muscle.
- Hold this position for around 30 to 60 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.
Kneeling Shin Stretch
- Using an exercise mat, position yourself down on your knees keeping your ankles, knees and feet as close together as you can.
- Your feet should be in full plantar flexion, with the tops of your toes and feet resting on the floor.
- Slowly sit back so that your hamstrings now rest on your calf muscles.
- Maintain this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- To make it more challenging, begin to raise one knee from the floor and then lower back down. Keep alternating between your knees for several repetitions.
Eccentric Heel Drops
- Start by standing on the edge of a step or the stairs with your heels hanging from the edge.
- Hook one foot behind the ankle of the other foot.
- With the working foot, raise up on to the balls of your feet.
- Very slowly lower your foot back down and descend beyond the top of the step.
- Aim to get the back of your foot as low as is comfortable and hold this position.
- Repeat for 10 reps on each foot.
Ankle Inversions & Eversions
- Sit on the edge of a chair and place a closed loop resistance band around the tops of both feet.
- Your knees and hips should be bent to a 90-degree angle with feet flat on the ground.
- Raise the toes up of one foot and then rotate your ankle joint outwards so your toes pivot out. This is eversion of the foot.
- Rotate the ankle back in and place the foot back on the floor.
- Raise the toes back up but this time rotate the ankle inwards. This is inversion of the foot.
- Now rotate the ankle back out and position your foot back on the ground.
- It’s important to keep your knee in position throughout the exercise.
- Perform 20 repetitions on each side.
By performing the above exercises a few times per week can really help to improve your mobility and flexibility to your lower legs.
When all the muscles and joints are kept supple, this will help to limit any pain that you may be feeling because of anterior tibial tendonitis.
Over time, you can help to ensure that this common condition remains a thing of the past.
Before you go, why not have a read of our article on the best exercises for the soleus muscle.
The soleus is an important calf muscle that is often neglected during exercise.
However, if it becomes weak, it can contribute to tibial tendonitis so it’s a good idea to incorporate some additional exercises to improve the strength and stability of your lower leg muscles.