Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

As computers became more prevalent in workspaces and classrooms, doctors began to see an increase in cases of carpal tunnel syndrome. This particular medical issue develops in the wrist and is somewhat similar to a problem that can arise in your ankle – tarsal tunnel syndrome. It may not be quite as prevalent as carpal tunnel syndrome, but your painful symptoms need to be addressed, and our doctors` can handle that for you at any of our five Florida offices.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The best starting point for looking at this particular condition is to look at the structure found on the inner edge of your ankle known as the tarsal tunnel. This is a narrow space covered by a thick ligament (the flexor retinaculum) which serves to protect the anatomical structures it contains – tendons, nerves, arteries, and veins. An important nerve found within the “tunnel” is your posterior tibial nerve.

Tarsal Tunnel SyndromeThe problem begins when there is a squeezing or compression of the posterior tibial nerve. This is similar to the carpal tunnel syndrome that can occur in the wrist. In both cases, the root cause of pain and discomfort is compression on a nerve found in a confined space. In your tarsal tunnel, the source of that compression can come from several different possibilities, such as arthritic bone spurs, ganglion cysts, swollen tendons, and varicose veins.

Some cases of tarsal tunnel syndrome develop in response to injury, particularly ones that cause swelling or inflammation in or near your tarsal tunnel. In other instances, a systemic disease (like arthritis or diabetes) causes the swelling. Additionally, individuals who have flat feet also have a higher risk, which can be attributed to an outward tilting of the heel as a result of the structural abnormality.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options

When we look at treatment options for this particular condition, our objective is to use nonsurgical methods, however some cases require surgery to relieve painful symptoms and provide the relief you need. Treatment methods may include:

  • Ice. For 20 minute intervals, apply an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel to the affected area several times during the day. After an icing session, wait at least 40 minutes before repeating.
  • Immobilization. One of the best ways to allow the nerve and surrounding tissue to heal is by restricting the movement of the foot. This can be achieved with the use of a cast or brace.
  • Medication. You can reduce inflammation and pain with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Our doctors can provide you with appropriate dosage recommendations.
  • Injection therapy. In addition to oral medication, many patients benefit from corticosteroids or local anesthetics as a means to treat inflammation in the tarsal tunnel.
  • Orthotic devices or bracing. These can be used to either maintain the foot arch, which will limit the excessive motion that compresses the nerve, or reduce the amount of pressure faced by the affected foot.
  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy modalities, exercises, and ultrasound therapy are sometimes used to reduce painful symptoms.
  • Rest. Staying off the affected foot will allow the body to perform its natural healing processes. This is also essential for preventing further injury.
  • Shoes. We will likely recommend supportive shoes to help improve this condition.
  • Surgery. Decompression of the posterior tibial nerve and its branches.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is just one of the various conditions that might be the source of your ankle pain. Our team at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida can help by diagnosing your condition and providing an effective treatment plan. We provide exceptional foot and ankle care for patients across central Florida.  So come and see for yourself why patients consistently choose our podiatry team.

You can contact us by calling 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if you call from Lake County) and speak to one of our friendly staff members. We are happy to provide additional information, answer any questions you might have, and help set up your appointment. If you’d prefer, you can always request an appointment online with one of our five Florida offices.