Many people are familiar with carpal tunnel syndrome, but not as many people have heard of tarsal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome affects your wrist and tarsal tunnel syndrome affects your feet. Tarsal tunnel and carpal tunnel are similar in the fact that they both arise from the compression of a nerve in a confined space. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression, or squeezing, on the posterior tibial nerve that produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot.
Signs of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
People that have tarsal tunnel syndrome may experience pain, numbness, or tingling along the tibial nerve. The tibial nerve runs down the back of your legs and ankles. It is also common to feel the pain from tarsal tunnel syndrome in the sole of the foot or the inside of your ankle. If you have tarsal tunnel syndrome it may feel like sharp, shooting pains; pins and needles; an electric shock; or a burning sensation. You may notice that standing for long periods of time or participating in physical activity increase the pain the symptoms. Some individuals will notice the symptoms progress gradually, while others experience them very suddenly.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Causes
There is a variety of causes for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Severely flat feet; benign bony growths in the tarsal tunnel; varicose veins surrounding the tibial nerve; inflammation from arthritis; lesions and messes near the tibial nerve; injuries or trauma that cause inflammation and swelling; and diabetes can all cause a person to develop tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Tinel’s Test
If you are having problems with your feet and ankles you will want to go and see your general doctor first. They will most likely refer you to a podiatrist. The podiatrist will listen to your description of the symptoms and ask you about your medical history. We will also examine your foot and ankle. One way to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome is to perform a Tinel’s test. Tinel’s test involves gently tapping the tibial nerve. As we tap your tibial nerve you may experience a tingling sensation or pain as a result of the pressure. If you do experience those things, you likely have tarsal tunnel syndrome. Your podiatrist may also order additional testing.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
Treating tarsal tunnel syndrome is important. If you leave it untreated it can result in permanent and irreversible nerve damage. Nerve damage can make it difficult to walk or participate in normal activities. There are at-home and doctor-prescribed treatments that can be used to treat tarsal tunnel syndrome. Reducing inflammation by taking anti-inflammatory medications may help alleviate the compression of the nerve. You will also want to rest, ice, compress, and elevate to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Your doctor may inject steroids to the affected area to reduce swelling. Some patients may wear braces and splits to immobilize the foot and limit movement that could compress the nerve. Patients with flat feet may want to consider having custom shoes made that will support the arches of their feet better. Severe cases may require a surgery called tarsal tunnel release. The surgeon will make an incision from behind your ankle down to the arch of your foot. This will release the ligament and relieve the nerve.
If you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, or believe that you do, schedule your appointment with Belmont Anderson and Associates today. We would be happy to review your case and find a solution that will put an end to your foot and ankle pain.