Some muscles are easily overlooked with stretching programs. The tibialis anterior is one of them. This muscle is located at the front of your lower leg, next to your shin bone. If you're a runner, endurance athlete or if you've ever been diagnosed with "shin splints," you might have tightness in your tibialis anterior.
Stretching this muscle can help prevent lower leg pain and decrease it if you're already suffering. The tibialis anterior muscles lift your toes off the ground -- an important movement for climbing stairs and walking uphill. These muscles also play an important role in maintaining your balance. As with all stretches, do not stretch to the point of pain. This can cause damage to your muscles.
Moving your ankle in multiple directions is one way to gently stretch your tibialis anterior.
Sit comfortably with your feet unsupported. Remove your socks and shoes.
Slowly draw the alphabet in the air, leading with your big toe. Move as far as possible in each direction. Do not allow your knee to move -- all motion should come from your ankle.
Each time your foot is pointed downward, you should feel a stretch or pulling sensation along the front of your shin. This is the movement that stretches your tibialis anterior. Repeat the alphabet three times on each leg.
The tibialis anterior muscles can be stretched by kneeling on one or both legs at the same time.
Kneel on a firm but padded surface. Point your toes so that the tops of your feet are resting on the ground.
Slowly sit back onto your heels until you feel a strong stretch along the front of your shins. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times.
The tibialis anterior muscles can be stretched one at a time in a standing position. To maintain your balance, practice this stretch next to a wall or other sturdy object.
Stand with your back toward a step, curb or stool of similar height.
Lift the leg you want to stretch and place the top of your foot on the step behind you.
Slowly squat down and lower your body weight through the leg you are standing on to apply pressure through the top of the foot on the step until you feel a stretch in the front of your shin.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times on each leg.
The standing stretch for the tibialis anterior does not require any fancy equipment. However, it will challenge your balance. Perform this stretch with a partner or near a sturdy surface.
Stand on your left foot. To stretch your right tibialis anterior, bend your right knee and bring your heel up toward your buttock.
Grab the top of your right foot with your right hand and pull it in closer to your buttock. Your toes should be pointed up toward the ceiling.
Gently pull your foot in until you feel a stretch along the front of your right shin. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat three times on each leg.
Tennis Ball Massage
Muscle tightness can also be relieved by gently massaging the area with a firm object such as a tennis ball. This technique increases blood flow to the area which decreases tension in the muscle.
Sit comfortably with your knee bent or stand with your foot resting on an elevated surface in front of you.
Feel your tibialis anterior muscle running along the outside of your shin bone. This is your target area.
Place the tennis ball against the muscle and hold it in place with your palm.
With firm pressure, slowly roll the tennis ball up and down the tibialis anterior muscle for 30 to 60 seconds. This exercise might be uncomfortable, but should not be painful.
Repeat on the other side.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program
- Oregon Health & Science University: Sports Medicine: 'Shin Splint' Prevention Routine
- Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine: Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome: Conservative Treatment Options
- Sports Medicine Institute International: A Guide to the Foam Roller
- Self-Myofascial Release: Purpose, Methods and Techniques: Mike Robertson, MS, CSCS
- Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics: Tibialis Anterior