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What Is the Tibialis Anterior?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2014
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The tibialis anterior is a muscle located in the lower leg that is used for inverting and dorsiflexing the foot making it a vital muscle in movements such as walking or running. The muscle is located on the front of the shin and can be felt immediately beneath the surface. In human anatomy it is described as being lateral to the tibia — the bone at the front of the shin.

The origin of the tibialis anterior is on the upper surface of the tibia. From there it runs down the front of the shin before attaching to both the first metatarsal and the medial cuneiform. The nerve supply of the muscle is via the deep peroneal nerve.

One of the primary actions of the tibialis anterior is dorsiflexing the foot. This means that it is involved in pulling the foot upwards and holding it there. Dorsiflexion is a common movement that is required in a number of daily activities, and it is essential for the tibialis anterior to be strong enough to perform this adequately.

Another action of the tibialis anterior is inverting the foot at the ankle. This means that it allows the ankle to have some movement in the horizontal plane. The reason for this is that if the ankle starts to roll it has some movement available to it which can reduce the severity of an injury.

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The muscle is an important part of a number of different daily activities. For example, kicking a football or hiking both use the muscle heavily. In general, any movement that requires movement of the lower leg will involve the tibialis anterior in some way. Even if the ankle isn’t dorsiflexed the muscle is still used for stabilization of the ankle.

Aside from its main actions, the function of the muscle depends on whether the leg is bearing weight. This is referred to as either open or closed chain. The reason for this is that when the foot is on the ground during an activity then it’s easier for the muscles to provide balance and stability.

Many muscles in the body have antagonists that work in the opposite way. The antagonists for the tibialis anterior are the gastrocnemius and soleus. Both these muscles are found in the calf and are used for plantar-flexion rather than dorsiflexion. A balance in strength between the calf muscles and tibialis anterior is important for the entire kinetic chain.

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Discuss this Article

cloudel
Post 4

@Oceana – Working that muscle too much can cause even worse things than intense pain. My dad developed tibialis anterior swelling because he had been doing too much strength training, and he could have lost a leg because of it.

The doctor said he had anterior compartment syndrome. His tibialis anterior had swollen so much that it was too large for the sheath that held it.

He had to have surgery right away. Everything worked out, and he didn't have to have an amputation. The only thing he had to do was cut down on his training, and after such a scare, he had no desire to workout that hard again.

Oceana
Post 3

I suffered severe tibialis anterior pain after deciding that running uphill would be a good workout. I usually ran down my street, which was pretty much flat. I thought that I was ready for a challenge, but that challenge proved to be too much.

I went to a state park and ran up the sloping hill of the dam levy. It was quite an incline, but I got a rush from the intensity of the workout, and I continued long after I should have stopped.

My shins hurt as much as they would have if someone had hit them with a baseball bat. All of that dorsiflexing my tibialis anterior had to do to keep me going uphill had caused it to become inflamed.

I had to take a couple of days off of work and apply ice to my shins. I also took anti-inflammatory medicine every four hours.

seag47
Post 2

@wavy58 – Ankles can be so wobbly sometimes! It is good to have a supporting muscle in place to act as a guardian angel.

I recently started wearing high heels to my new job, and I have had several ankle accidents because of them. My foot often turns either inward or outward in an unnatural way as the narrow heel loses its grip on the floor.

I have noticed how the ankle just seems to roll in and out of place. Since I have to wear these shoes, I am so thankful for the support of my tibialis anterior.

wavy58
Post 1

The tibialis anterior is probably the reason I haven't broken my ankle by now. I tend to bend it the wrong way accidentally often, yet it never snaps. I have sprained it a time or two, but it could have been much worse.

On more than one occasion, I have turned my foot down and under while coming down the concrete doorsteps in my carport. My ankle hurts badly for awhile after this, but I can still walk and move it around.

I am glad I have that shin muscle to strengthen my accident-prone ankles. Otherwise, I probably would have made several trips to the hospital by now.

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