Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Nervous tissue is sensitive—stimulate it in any way, and it fires a message to let you know. However, it’s also easily damaged. Pinching or pressing on a nerve traps the tissue and causes it to misfire, resulting in pain and other problems. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is one condition that leaves your feet uncomfortable and vulnerable to additional issues.

Anatomy of the Issue

This syndrome involves painful nerve damage along the inside of the ankle. You have a number of long nerves that run down your lower leg and end in your feet. One is the posterior tibial nerve, which passes through a structure known as the tarsal tunnel.

The tarsal tunnel is a space on the inside of your ankle, just below the ankle joint. The space is covered by a ligament called a flexor retinaculum, making it tunnel-like. Multiple tendons, blood vessels, and other nerves pass through the space. Because the tunnel is relatively narrow, if any of the tissues running through it are swollen or thickened, they can compress or pinch the posterior tibial nerve. What carpal tunnel is to the wrist, tarsal tunnel is to the ankle..

Pinching a Major Nerve

Compressed nerves are highly uncomfortable. Typically, you feel tingling or burning sensations along the inside of your ankle, though the feeling may radiate up the leg or into the foot as well. Shooting pain along the nerve is fairly common. You may also develop numbness. Usually, the discomfort increases slowly over time, through overuse.

Repeated strain on the inside of the ankle can cause the pressure-related problems that lead to tarsal tunnel syndrome. Flat feet, especially from fallen arches, can cause the ankle to tilt inward and strain the tissues in the tunnel. Any sort of enlargement that develops in the space—a tumor, a cyst, a varicose vein, a swollen tendon—may press on the posterior tibial nerve and cause pain. Injuries like sprains and inflammatory issues like arthritis can also cause the problem.

Eliminating the Pain

This condition needs to be addressed right away. Like other nerve problems, it may cause permanent damage and pain if not treated quickly enough. Our doctors will carefully evaluate your lower limbs to accurately diagnose your condition. Then, you can begin targeted treatments to manage your pain.

Noninvasive methods may be all you need to restore your lower limb to full comfort. Decreasing the pressure on the nerve allows it to heal, so your treatment will partly depend on what caused your condition in the first place. You may need to immobilize the foot to help restrict motion that could worsen the condition. Shoe changes and orthotics help accommodate any contributing biomechanical issues as well.

You’ll also need to lower any inflammation. Icing the tarsal tunnel area discourages swelling and irritation. You may need physical therapy to help with this as well. Sometimes injections of anti-inflammatory medications relieve discomfort. If regularly conservative therapies don’t improve your condition, though, you may need surgery to decompress the nerve.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a painful problem that can cause permanent issues if allowed to progress too far. Intervening early, though, allows our team of specialists to eliminate your discomfort and restore your feet. Don’t wait until the pain is unbearable to seek help—by then, the damage will already have been done. To make an appointment with Country Foot Care’s caring doctors to examine and evaluate whether you have tarsal tunnel syndrome you simply can call our offices. For those who would like to request an appointment online, you can do so by clicking on the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT button at the top of this page.