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What is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

Everyone has heard of the carpal tunnel in your hand, but less commonly known is that the ankle has a similar tunnel as well called the tarsal tunnel. The tarsal tunnel is located on the side of the ankle joint. This tunnel has a thick, fibrous structure called the flexor retinaculum that encases and protects blood vessels, tendons, and nerves of the ankle and foot. Similar to the carpal tunnel in the wrist, which can cause numbness and tingling of the hand and fingers when compressed, the tarsal tunnel can also be problematic and cause tingling in the ankles and feet when it is compressed. This condition is known as Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. A nerve located and protected by this tunnel called the posterior tibial nerve is generally the main culprit that leads an individual to experience Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

What Causes Tarsal Tunnel?

Tarsal Tunnel syndrome is generally not caused by a traumatic injury, although it can be. Most often, this condition is caused by a gradual overuse of the muscles. Anything that causes this area to be compressed can lead to this condition and painful feet when walking. This condition generally greatly affects everyday function as every time you stand up and walk, the tunnel is being compressed and causes symptoms to appear. The symptoms that may be experienced with this condition are some or all of the following:

  • Flat feet/ fallen arches
  • An obstruction within the actual tunnel which places compression on the posterior tibial nerve. Some examples of this are a Ganglion Cyst or a bone spur
  • A traumatic injury to the ankle such as an ankle sprain which can compress the nerve
  • Certain diseases can make you more prone to Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Diabetes and arthritis are two examples that are associated with this condition
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What are Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel?

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome can cause extreme discomfort leading to pain in the feet when walking, or even at rest in very advanced forms of the condition. Symptoms will generally be located on the inside of the ankle or bottom of the foot and can extend to the toes. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome can also cause symptoms in the other direction, affecting the calf. Other symptoms that you may experience are:

  • numbness and tingling in the ankles and feet
  • A burning sensation in the ankles or feet
  • Shooting pains
  • Noticeable weakness of the foot and ankle complex
  • Swelling
If You Are Experiencing Symptoms, Schedule an Appointment Dr. Burke Orthopedics Immediately.
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How to Prevent Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

There is no agreed upon method of prevention for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, but there are strategies you can utilize in order to maintain the health of your feet. These are:

  • Nerve gliding activities that can be taught by a physical therapist in order to maintain smooth motion and integrity of the nerve
  • Muscle strengthening of the foot and ankle complex
  • Balance activities
  • Orthotic, taping, and bracing in order to decrease pressure on the foot and in turn decrease and compression in the tarsal tunnel area
  • Seeking immediate treatment after an injury and taking proper care of the foot in the case of injury consisting of the RICE Protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation
  • Injections into the tarsal tunnel can be a preventative measure used to reduce pain

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Disclaimer: Please note all medical information contained within this website should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. If a diagnosis is needed, contact Dr. Burke Orthopedics for a personalized consultation. Information shared in testimonials and reviews are specific to that particular patient and may not be representative of the experience of others.