The tarsal tunnel is a space on the inside of the ankle that contains a collection of bones, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. The posterior tibial nerve passes through this canal, and when that nerve gets compressed due to an injury or a foot deformity, a painful condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome can result.
Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, but as a general rule, the indicators of tarsal tunnel syndrome are generally similar to those of its counterpart in the wrist, carpal tunnel syndrome. If you have any of these symptoms, see if they worsen when you walk and lessen when you rest. If so, you likely have tarsal tunnel syndrome.
How to Identify Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- A burning sensation that gets worse with movement
Left untreated, tarsal tunnel syndrome will only worsen and could lead to permanent nerve damage. If you have these symptoms, a quick diagnosis from a foot professional can make an immense difference.
Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Any injury or foot problem that causes the posterior tibial nerve to be compressed can put you at risk for tarsal tunnel syndrome. People who have conditions that cause swelling in their feet, like arthritis or diabetes, are more likely to develop this condition. If you’re among that group and notice any of these symptoms, schedule a podiatrist appointment right away.
How Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Develops
- Repetitive stress injuries to the foot and ankle
- Multiple trauma injuries to the same foot or ankle
- Flat feet or fallen arches
- Multiple ankle sprains
- Fractures and dislocations
- Chronic foot and ankle swelling
- Varicose veins
- Ganglion cysts
- Swollen tendons
- Bone spurs
- Arthritis or diabetes
- A tumor growing within the tarsal tunnel
Diagnosing Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
To determine if you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, your doctor will first discuss the progression of your symptoms and ask a few questions about your medical history. Due to the number of bones in the ankle, a visual exam probably won’t be sufficient to diagnose the issue.
Instead, a Tinel’s test will be administered—the same test used to detect carpal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor will lightly tap the area above the affected nerve during this test. If you feel a tingling sensation rippling out from the tap (a sensation called paresthesia), that’s a sure sign of tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Additional tests like an MRI or electromyography may be ordered to determine the cause of the problem if it’s not evident from the initial exam.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options
Treatment of tarsal tunnel syndrome will begin with a visit to a podiatrist. Once there, the doctor will diagnose how severe your case is. Moderate cases can be treated with several conservative options that do not involve surgery.
Initially, your doctor could recommend anti-inflammatory prescription medication or steroid injections and ice therapy when the pain is bad. Common treatments also involve regular physical therapy or orthotics like a brace or splint.
If these methods don’t alleviate the pain or your initial consultation reveals a more severe case, your doctor may recommend either tarsal tunnel release surgery or decompression surgery.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Is Available in Roanoke
If you believe you may have tarsal tunnel syndrome, help is available. Contact Shenandoah Podiatry. Instead of letting pain keep you from enjoying life, let our experienced podiatrists explore what options are available for you.
Our staff has extensive experience with issues of the foot, helping more than 132,000 patients find new foot health. We combine that experience with the latest technology at our convenient Roanoke office to provide the very best care in a relaxing atmosphere.
Call our office today at 540-904-1458 to set up an appointment, or if you’d rather converse with us digitally, use our online contact form and we’ll get in contact with you as quickly as we can.