Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that is similar to the wrist condition called carpal tunnel syndrome, with which many people are familiar, except the tarsal tunnel is located near the ankle bones where thick ligament tissue encloses the nerves, tendons, arteries, and veins that supply the foot. When this tissue becomes constricted or compressed, the resulting pressure on the posterior tibial nerve causes pain, numbness, or a burning sensation that is felt on the bottom of the foot or on the inward side of the ankle and it may come on suddenly.
Causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome
Injuries such as ankle sprains and strains that occur near the tunnel can cause inflammation that compresses the nerve. People who have flat feet and are subject to an outward rolling of the foot are more susceptible to strain and compression of the tarsal tunnel. Systemic diseases such as inflammatory arthritis and diabetes can also contribute to nerve compression problems. There is also the possibility that an obstruction is pressing on the nerve inside the tunnel. This could be from a swollen tendon, ganglion cyst, or varicose vein, among other possibilities.
Diagnosing and treating tarsal tunnel syndrome
Your foot doctor will make an assessment regarding your loss of feeling and burning sensations, and it may be necessary to perform advanced imaging studies to confirm that the loss of feeling isn’t caused by a growth inside the tunnel.
Conservative treatments may include:
- Resting and icing the foot to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Taking ibuprofen to relieve pain and swelling.
- Immobilizing the foot with a cast or boot to allow the nerve and tissues to heal.
- Physical therapy.
- Ultrasound treatments are often effective.
- Custom fitted orthotic inserts and supportive shoes can provide arch support and decrease movements that may contribute to nerve compression.
- A foot brace may be required to redistribute pressure.
Surgery may be necessary in severe cases and, left untreated, tarsal tunnel syndrome can cause permanent damage, so be sure to consult with your foot care professional. The podiatrists at Foot Health Podiatry, PLLC, in New York City, NY, are experts in providing the best care for any problems you may be experiencing with your feet and ankles. Sorelis Jimenez, DPM, John W. Fletcher, DPM, and Kamilla Danilova, DPM and the rest of the staff at Foot Health Podiatry, PLLC, are happy to help with any questions or concerns you may have. Check out our Ask The Doctor page for answers to frequently asked questions, and never hesitate to give us a call to talk or make an appointment at 212-845-9991.