Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy
The tibialis anterior (i.e. front) muscle is situated at the front of the shin, connecting to important bones in the foot with the assistance of the tibialis anterior tendon. This muscle helps with dorsiflexion, and pressure is placed on the tendon whenever it is stretched or contracted. Repetitive high strain or too much force can cause damage to the tendon. This leads to degeneration and swelling in the area.
Symptoms of Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy
Pain felt near the front of the foot or ankle, especially during or after a physical activity in which much strain is put on the tibialis anterior tendon. The pain may not be immediately felt, and it is common to experience the pain the next morning or after rest. It is likely to become sharper over time if physical activities involving this foot continue. Pressing on the area of the tendon itself may result in replicating the pain.
Causes of Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy
Activities that place inordinate pressure on the tendon can result in the injury, either due to degeneration of the tendon over time or, rarely, because of a single incident in which the tendon is accidentally rubbed. This rarer cause is provoked by actions such as very tight tying of a bandage, guard, shoelaces or other material directly over the tendon. More commonly the tendinopathy is caused through repeated strain as caused in movements including quick walking or sprinting on hills or uneven ground (or excessively on flat surfaces), wearing very tight footwear, kicking a football, or kneeling. Many fast paced sports that require running and kicking can lead to the condition.
Treatment for Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy
Most people with this injury will recover with a responsible period of resting from activity and then a gradual build up of physical rehabilitation. See a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out anything more serious; they may also prescribe you with anti-inflammatory pain medication in order to relieve some of the symptoms. Applying ice to the injured area approximately 3 times per day can help with any swelling and dull aching. You should rest from all activities that could exacerbate the injury, including extensive walks and any running. It is crucial to be strict with this to give you the maximum chance of a quick recovery and to reduce the chances of sustaining the injury again. Continuing with training despite the tendinopathy can result in chronic pain and a greater chance of future injury.
Rehabilitation from Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy
Once the symptoms have significantly subsided and your doctor is satisfied, it is time to begin a gradual return to exercise. A physical therapist can help you to structure a program focusing on building strength and flexibility in the potentially rigid injured area. They will also focus on stretches and activities that promote balance in the foot. The process might require patience but this is essential for optimal recovery; a full return to activity will be carefully guided by a professional.
Prevention of Tibialis Anterior Tendinopathy
Make sure that you do not fall into common overuse traps (exercising for too long or with weakened muscles), and that you are always wearing suitable footwear for your current activity. Any problems with foot biomechanics can be corrected with the appropriate orthotics.
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