Like the more well-known carpal tunnel syndrome, which is caused by pressure that damages nerves in the hand, tarsal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition involving repeated pressure that results in damage to the tibial nerve near the ankle.

Specifically, tarsal tunnel syndrome develops when constant pressure compresses the tibial nerve. The tibial nerve runs through the tarsal tunnel, a narrow passageway inside your ankle bound by bone and soft tissue. Fortunately, the pain and discomfort caused by tarsal tunnel syndrome can usually be resolved without the need for surgery, so long as you seek diagnosis and treatment soon after symptoms arise. If left untreated, this progressive condition can cause permanent nerve damage.

Symptoms

Since the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome mirror other common foot and ankle problems, you will need an examination by your podiatrist to know whether you have the condition. However, you may be suffering from tarsal tunnel syndrome if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Tingling or burning that feels similar to an electrical shock
  • Numbness
  • Pain, including shooting pain

Typically, individuals feel symptoms on the inside of the ankle and/or on the bottom of the foot. Symptoms may occur in just one spot, or they may extend to the heel, arch, toes, or calf.

Causes

Anything that puts consistent pressure on the posterior tibial nerve can lead to the development of tarsal tunnel syndrome. This can include:

  • Flat feet. The outward tilting of the heel that occurs with fallen arches can strain and compress the nerve.
  • Crowded tunnel. When an enlarged or abnormal structure such as a varicose vein, swollen tendon, ganglion cyst, or arthritic bone spur takes up space within the tarsal tunnel, it can compress the nerve.
  • Injury or trauma. Inflammation and swelling after an injury such as an ankle sprain can result in compression of the nerve.
  • Systemic diseases. Swelling caused by diseases like diabetes or arthritis can cause nerve compression.

Treatment

A combination of at-home treatments, medication, or other non-invasive treatments usually offer relief from pain and can effectively address problems caused by tarsal tunnel syndrome, including:

  • Rest. To stop any further damage and help healing.
  • Ice. Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time using a thin towel or washcloth between the skin and the ice.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can pain and inflammation.
  • Immobilization. A cast that restricts movement of the foot can help the nerve and surrounding tissue heal.
  • Physical therapy. Ultrasound therapy, exercises, and other physical therapy modalities can reduce symptoms.
  • Injection therapy. Injections of a local anesthetic can relieve pain relief, and corticosteroid injections can help treat inflammation.
  • Custom orthotics devices. 
  • Supportive shoes.

We Can Relieve Your Tarsal Tunnel Pain!

As noted, a proper diagnosis is required in order to effectively treat the pain and discomfort caused by tarsal tunnel syndrome. The experienced and skilled podiatrists at JAWSpodiatry in Hollywood, Florida can identify the source of your pain and implement a range of conservative and non-invasive treatment approaches. Please contact us today at (954) 922-7333 to schedule a consultation.