What is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve compression ("pinched nerve") condition affecting the nerves to the bottom of the foot that results in pain and difficulty standing, walking or running.
What are the symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms include:
- Burning, Tingling, Sharp shooting pain
- Pain may begin near the large ankle bone and radiate into the foot
- Pain may begin in the foot and radiate toward the ankle and leg
- Weakness the the affected foot
- "Funny bone" feeling in the foot or ankle
What causes Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve compression syndrome similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Sciatica, or a Herniated Disk (back pain with radiating leg pains). The Tibial Nerve (large nerve to the foot) is compressed at the ankle as the nerve branches from a single large nerve into smaller nerves. This area of branching along the ankle is called the Tarsal Tunnel.
The nerve can be compressed many different ways, including:
- Varicose Veins in the Tarsal Tunnel
- A ganglion cyst in the Tarsal Tunnel
- Scar tissue from prior injuries or surgeries to the ankle near the Tarsal Tunnel
- Edema (chronic swelling) at the ankle
Traction (abnormal pulling of the nerve) can also cause symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Traction is common in people with low-arched feet who pronate too much during walking and running.
How is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
The most effective diagnostic tools for tarsal tunnel syndrome are a history of your symptoms combined with the doctor examining your foot.
Additional in-office testing includes:
- Ultrasound to check for massess in the Tarsal Tunnel
Some patients may benefit from additional testing including:
- MRI of the ankle or back
- Neurologist consultation with Nerve Conduction Testing.
How is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome treated?
Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms and relieving the abnormal compression or traction.
Non-surgical treatments include:
- Cortisone injections
- Foot orthotics with supportive shoes
- Physical therapy
Many cases of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome require surgical treatment. Surgical treatment is done to alleviate pressure from the nerves starting at the ankle and extending into the foot. Surgery often results in immediate relief of symptoms, but recurrence of symptoms is still possible.