Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

This article does not constitute as medical advice.
If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your doctor or make an appointment.

What is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

The posterior tibial nerve runs through the heel into the sole of the foot.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when compression or pressure upon this nerve or inflammation of tissues around the nerve result in foot, ankle, and toe pain. This condition is similar to its wrist counterpart, carpal tunnel. Patients can typically treat this painful syndrome at home with rest. Learn more about how you get tarsal tunnel and how you can prevent it here:

Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

While the exact cause is unclear, experts have explained that several contributing factors can lead to this condition. All involve putting pressure on or causing trauma to the ankle. 

  • Varicose veins or other growths: Enlarged veins, cysts, tumors, or other abnormal growths that put repetitive pressure on the nerve can contribute to the ailment. 
  • Inflammation: Inflammation around the ankle from an injury, arthritis, or other trauma cause swelling near the nerve’s tunnel. 
  • Bone structure: Individuals with flat feet put an extra strain on the nerve from their heels naturally tilting outwards. 
  • Diabetes: Unfortunately, those with diabetes are more prone to nerve problems in their extremities.  

Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

This condition is felt through pain in the foot. Identically, patients describe this feeling to be similar to carpal tunnel in the wrist. The specific sensations of tarsal tunnel include:

Burning pain: A burning or tingling sensation in the foot made worse by activity 

Pins and needles: Numbness or weakness in the foot

Shooting pain: A shock of pain that jolts up the leg

Treating Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

If you are experiencing symptoms of tarsal tunnel, you should schedule an appointment with your podiatrist. They will diagnose you by examining the nerves in your feet by tapping them. In addition, they may feel the area for any growths on the inside of your foot near the tunnel. Here is how you can prevent and treat this condition: 

Prevention: 

  • Proper sports technique: Athletes and active individuals should always warm up or cool down as a part of their workout routine. If they feel pain during exercises, they should rest until the pain subsides. 
  • Footwear: In addition, individuals should wear proper footwear for the specific activity. Cushioned shoes and socks that provide support are always the best options. 

Treatment

  • Nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs: Over-the-counter medications such as Advil or Ibuprofen can be used in the short term for inflammation and pain relief. Note that this is not a long-term solution! 
  • Use of orthotics: Patients should wear custom orthotics or shoe inserts to support the nerve. Your podiatrist may recommend special orthotics to limit foot movement during the healing process. 
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy may be recommended to patients by podiatrists. Here are particular stretches you can try to reduce pain now. 
  • Cortisone injections: Local injections done by your doctor are used for immediate pain relief. 
  • Surgery: In severe and long-term cases, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. The tunnel will be enlarged during the operation. Here, pressure will be relieved. 

Experiencing Symptoms?

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