Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

We’ve all heard of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome; a condition brought on by typing at your desk all day, causing pain, tingling and numbness in your fingers.  It’s close cousin, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, is the foot and ankle version of Carpel Tunnel.

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Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome can cause tingling, burning, shooting sensations, numbness and pain from the inside of your ankle to the bottom of your feet, even extending into your toes.  The Tarsal Tunnel is the narrow space behind your ankle bone, where the major nerve to the bottom of your foot courses, along with tendons, arteries and veins.

If there is any type of compression on the nerve as it courses through the tunnel, it can lead to symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.  Causes of Tarsal Tunnel include:

  • Flat Feet, or Fallen Arches; If your foot flattens or pronates excessively, the motion of your foot turning outward can put excessive tension on the nerve.
  • Tendonitis; If of one of the tendons coursing through the tunnel becomes inflamed or enlarged, it can cause compression to the nerve and lead to Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • Ganglionic Cyst or other soft tissue mass; The growth of a cyst or any soft tissue mass behind the ankle bone can compress the nerve.
  • Foot or ankle injury, such as an ankle sprain can lead to swelling or damage to the tendons around the ankle, causing compression to the nerve.
  • Systemic conditions; Any condition that can cause swelling in and around the ankle can put pressure on the nerve and cause symptoms.  Examples include diabetes, arthritis, venous insufficiency, and congestive heart failure.

Symptoms can come on suddenly or occur slowly over time.  An injury or activities resulting in overuse such as excessive walking or exercising can bring on the onset of symptoms.

It is best to see one of our doctors at the first signs of symptoms, since as the condition progresses, it could become chronic and result in permanent damage to the nerve.  Evaluation will include physical examination and x-rays, and may include in-office diagnostic ultrasound, MRI and/or a nerve conduction study.

Treatment for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is usually conservative in nature, and rarely is surgery needed.  Treatment options may include:

  • Rest
  • Oral medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen or naproxen) or steroids such as prednisone
  • Immobilization with a cast or walking boot
  • Ankle support
  • Custom orthotics to help control foot instability
  • Cortisone injections
  • Physical therapy

If conservative treatment is not successful in alleviated the symptoms, surgery may be necessary.  The doctor will discuss appropriate surgical options with you, depending on the cause of the condition.

If you have symptoms that sound like Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, call our office at 816.943.1111 or make an appointment by clicking here and we’d be happy to get you in right away so that one of the doctors at Kansas City Foot can perform a thorough evaluation and discuss treatment options that fit your lifestyle.