Tarsal tunnel syndrome refers to the compression of the tibial nerve, which travels through the tarsal tunnel—the osteofibrous space (space consisting of bone and fibrous connective tissue) located in the middle back part of the ankle. The tibial nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve that provides innervation to the lower leg and foot muscles.
If you’re experiencing a pins-and-needles sensation or numbness and stabbing pain in your sole or inside your ankle, you may have tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Check out the following tips to help you get effective relief from the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Apply the R.I.C.E. method.
If you play a sport that involves repetitive movements of the feet, you need rest. Take a two-week break and possibly switch to low-impact exercises, as constant strenuous activity can exacerbate your symptoms. Resting along with icing, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E method) can help alleviate swelling and inflammation.
See a podiatrist.
If your symptoms aren’t relieved by the R.I.C.E. method, it greatly helps to see a podiatrist, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of foot and ankle conditions—including tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Your podiatrist will perform a thorough evaluation to confirm a diagnosis then proceed with creating an effective treatment plan for you. They can recommend the right shoes to wear. The right shoes feature a combination of extra depth; firm midsoles and outer soles that allow for bending of the toes; low heels; and firm heel counters that wrap around the heel to restrict abnormal foot motion. The right shoes—combined with custom orthotics—can effectively control pronation (arch flattening) and reducing traction (stretching) of the tibial nerve.
Your podiatrist may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication or administer steroid injections to relieve any swelling of the soft tissues. To reduce pressure on the tibial nerve and to limit movement of the foot (with the benefit of helping you sleep better at night), your doctor may also recommend physical therapy or wearing an ankle brace or wrap.
If nonsurgical treatments do not provide adequate relief from tarsal tunnel syndrome, your podiatrist can perform tarsal tunnel release surgery, as prolonged compression of the nerve can cause damage to it. During the procedure, your podiatrist makes an incision, starting from behind the ankle to the arch of the foot, and then releases the ligament that forms the roof of the tarsal tunnel to decompress the tibial nerve.
Do tarsal tunnel exercises.
Your physical therapist may recommend the following exercises to help prevent pronation or rolling of the foot and other problems, which can exacerbate your symptoms.
- Heel-toe raises
- Balance exercises
- Pencil-toe lifts
- Ankle pumping exercises
Try contrast bath therapy.
Contrast bath therapy is a form of treatment that involves a series of brief, repeated immersions of a limb or the entire body in water, alternating between cold and warm temperatures. Contrast bath therapy effectively alleviates inflammation and pain.
To do contrast bath therapy, you need to prepare two one-gallon basins then fill one with warm water, the other one with cold water. Soak your affected foot in the basin with cold water for two minutes, then move it to the other basin and soak it for two minutes as well. Repeat this for a total of twenty minutes, then do one last soak in the cold basin for two minutes.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment in San Antonio, TX
At The Podiatry Group of South Texas, we offer an extensive range of effective nonsurgical and surgical treatments for the full spectrum of foot and ankle injuries and disorders, enabling our patients to live pain-free lives.