Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome


Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the nerves in the foot become compressed due to swelling or other issues.

Definition of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the foot, causing pain due to compressed nerves in the tarsal tunnel. It’s caused by pressure on the posterior tibial nerve as it passes through a narrow space between bones and ligaments in the ankle area.

Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning sensations, and sharp pains that can be felt along the inside of your foot or toes. In some cases, the pain may even extend up into your calf or shin.

Treatment for this condition typically involves immobilising the foot with a brace or splint to relieve pressure on the nerve. Anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy may also be recommended to reduce swelling and help restore strength in affected muscles around the ankle joint.

Surgery might be necessary if other treatments fail to alleviate symptoms.

Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

You might suffer from TTS if you have anatomical abnormalities, overuse injuries, or compression injuries. Any of these issues cause this condition and can cause pain and discomfort in your feet, ankles, and lower legs.

As such, it’s important to understand the causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome so that you can take steps to prevent it or begin an appropriate course of treatment.

Anatomical Abnormalities

An anatomical abnormality, such as a cyst or bone spur, can pressure the tibial nerve and cause tarsal tunnel syndrome. This abnormality is usually found in the ankle area due to inflammation from arthritis or other conditions. If left untreated, these abnormalities can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome pain repetitive motion injury
Photo Credit: Freepik

Other causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome can include flat feet, swelling from an injury, diabetes-related changes in your feet, varicose veins, or even tumours. In some cases, no anatomical abnormality is present, and the exact cause of the condition goes undiagnosed.

The best way to determine if you have an abnormal structure contributing to tarsal tunnel syndrome is through imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries can sometimes lead to tarsal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive strain on the foot and ankle can cause a variety of problems, including inflammation of tendons and muscles. This type of injury may also affect the nerve that runs through the tarsal tunnel, resulting in pain or numbness in the feet and ankles.

Here are four common overuse injuries that may lead to tarsal tunnel syndrome:

  1. Repeated stress fractures
  2. Muscle tears or strains
  3. Chronic tendonitis
  4. Plantar fasciitis

Compression Injuries

Compression injuries involve squeezing a nerve or tissue due to physical pressure. This can happen when you apply too much pressure on an area, such as in sports activities, or when something else presses down from outside. You may experience pain and numbness that radiates through your leg if you have a compression injury in your tarsal tunnel. It’s important to recognise the symptoms early and get treatment immediately so it doesn’t worsen over time.

tarsal tunnel syndrome pain foot break
Photo Credit: pvproductions

Compression injuries can be caused by repetitive motions like running or biking, using tools that vibrate like jackhammers and drills, wearing tight shoes for long periods of time, or carrying heavy loads with one arm. If you suspect a compression injury is causing your tarsal tunnel syndrome symptoms, rest the affected area and avoid activities that could aggravate the condition. An MRI may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for compression injuries includes immobilising the area with braces or splints. At the same time, it heals, taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, icing the area several times daily to reduce inflammation and swelling, and getting physical therapy to strengthen weak muscles around the injured area. Surgery may also be necessary if other treatments don’t work.

Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome can include numbness, tingling, burning, and aching sensations in the foot. Sufferers may also experience:

  1. Pain radiating up to the calf or ankle and cramping in the affected area.
  2. Weakness and lack of coordination when flexing or moving toes.
  3. Numbness in between toes or on the sole of the foot.
  4. Difficulty sleeping due to pain or discomfort in feet caused by inflammation around nerves and tendons in the foot.

Diagnosis of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

To diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may conduct a physical exam and ask about any pain or discomfort you are experiencing. They’ll check your reflexes and muscle strength and look at the bottom of your feet for signs of swelling or tenderness.

Your doctor may also use imaging tests like an X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound to view the area more clearly. In some cases, an electromyogram (EMG) may be used to measure electrical activity in the muscles and nerves near the tarsal tunnel.

If nerve damage is found during any of these tests, tarsal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed. Treatment options will then be discussed with you by your doctor.

Treatment of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

foot stretch exercises can be treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome
Photo Credit: yanalya

Treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome usually involves reducing nerve pressure and relieving pain or discomfort. Your doctor might recommend:

  • Stretching exercises to improve flexibility in your ankle and foot.
  • Orthotics, such as shoe inserts or braces, to reduce stress on your feet and ankles.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain.
  • Surgery if other treatments have yet to be successful.

Prevention of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

To help prevent tarsal tunnel syndrome, you should reduce stress on your feet and ankles. This includes wearing well-fitting shoes, avoiding activities that put too much strain on the feet and ankles, and stretching properly before exercise.

Additionally, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight as being overweight can add extra pressure to the foot joints. You should also avoid crossing your legs when sitting for an extended period of time as this can lead to increased pressure in the area of the tibial nerve.

Lastly, make sure you take regular breaks if you stand for long periods of time throughout the day.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

What Is the Long-Term Prognosis of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

The long-term prognosis of tarsal tunnel syndrome is generally considered to be good. Most people experience a complete resolution of their symptoms with conservative treatment. However, surgery may be necessary in more severe cases to provide lasting relief.

Is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome More Common in Certain Age Groups?

Do you have pain, numbness and tingling in your foot? It could be tarsal tunnel syndrome. Is it more common in certain age groups? Yes, it’s most often seen in adults between the ages of 30-60.

Are There Any Lifestyle Changes That Can Reduce the Risk of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

You can reduce the risk of tarsal tunnel syndrome by making lifestyle changes. Try exercising regularly, stretching often and maintaining a healthy weight. Avoid repetitive activities that put stress on your feet and ankles. Wear supportive shoes to help prevent strain on your feet.

Are There Any Alternative Treatments for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

Are there alternative treatments for TTS? Yes, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and orthotic devices can all help reduce symptoms and improve mobility.

Is There a Way to Manage Pain From Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Without Taking Medications?

Yes, there are ways to manage pain from tarsal tunnel syndrome without taking medications. Exercise, stretching and using orthotics can be beneficial. Ice or heat therapy may help reduce the discomfort too.