Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that results from the compression or irritation of the posterior tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel—a narrow space located along the inner side of the ankle. Tarsal tunnel syndrome causes symptoms that are very familiar to those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, as they are both nerve compression issues.
Below, we discuss tarsal tunnel syndrome, what causes it, its symptoms, and how it is treated. We will also share where you can receive expert treatment for this condition.
What Causes Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a nerve compression issue. The tibial nerve is a major nerve that provides sensation and movement to the back of the lower leg and the sole of the foot.
Several factors can contribute to the compression of the nerve:
- Flat Feet – Flat feet can strain the posterior tibial nerve as it travels through the tarsal tunnel.
- Ankle Injuries – Trauma, such as sprains or fractures, can cause swelling and inflammation in the tarsal tunnel, putting pressure on the posterior tibial nerve.
- Enlarged Structures – Enlarged or abnormal structures within the tarsal tunnel, such as cysts or varicose veins, can also lead to the compression of the posterior tibial nerve.
- Systemic Conditions – Certain systemic conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis, are associated with an increased risk of posterior tibial nerve compression.
What Are the Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can cause any of the following symptoms:
Persistent pain along the inner side of the ankle and the sole of the foot is a hallmark of tarsal tunnel syndrome. The pain may radiate upward along the tibial nerve pathway, starting behind the knee and ending in the foot.
Numbness and Tingling
Individuals with tarsal tunnel syndrome often experience a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation along the back of the leg.
Patients with tarsal tunnel syndrome describe a burning or shooting pain that worsens with prolonged standing or walking.
Weakened muscles in the foot can lead to difficulty with activities that require foot control and movement.
Worsening Symptoms with Physical Activity
Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are typically aggravated by standing, walking, or running.
What Are the Treatment Options for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
The treatment approach for tarsal tunnel syndrome aims to alleviate symptoms, reduce nerve compression, and address underlying causes of nerve compression.
A tarsal tunnel syndrome treatment program may include:
Rest and Immobilization
Resting the affected foot, avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, and wearing a night splint can help reduce irritation of the tibial nerve.
Custom orthotic devices or shoe inserts can help correct foot mechanics and alleviate pressure on the tibial nerve.
Cortisone injections, which help reduce pressure and swelling, can ease symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain relievers can provide temporary relief from tarsal tunnel pain and inflammation.
Physical therapy may include exercises to improve foot strength, flexibility, and posture, as well as techniques to alleviate nerve compression.
The doctor may ultimately recommend tarsal tunnel release surgery, which releases the tibial nerve from compression by dividing the tarsal tunnel ligament, thus alleviating symptoms.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment in San Antonio, Boerne, Hondo, Floresville, Kenedy, Uvalde, and Live Oak, TX
The foot and ankle surgeons at the Podiatry Group of South Texas are experts in the treatment of tarsal tunnel syndrome. We will evaluate whether your symptoms are indeed from tarsal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, or posterior tibial tendonitis, which all cause similar symptoms. Only then can we recommend the appropriate treatment for you and guide you through your recovery.