Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the tibial nerve, located in the tarsal tunnel in the foot, is compressed. The tibial nerve can become compressed from injury, such as an ankle sprain, flat feet, and lesions. Arthritis, diabetes, and varicose veins can also cause swelling and thus result in nerve compression. Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include several different sensations in the sole of the foot, inside the ankle, and around the tibial nerve. These sensations include shooting pains, numbness or reduced sensation, pins and needles, burning, and tingling. Symptoms tend to worsen with greater activity to the area. In rare and severe occasions, this can change the muscles in the foot.
If you suspect you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, you should consult with your podiatrist. He or she will examine your medical history to see if you have a history of diabetes, arthritis, or flat feet. They will also check to see if you have suffered an injury to the area recently. An electrical test will be conducted to check if the nerve has been damaged. A simpler Tinel’s Test might also be used. This includes simply tapping the nerve to create a sensation. An MRI scan of the area may also be used.
Treatments vary greatly for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Treatments include both nonsurgical and surgical options depending upon the severity of the condition.
Nonsurgical options include anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections to the area. Orthotics, such as a splint or brace that immobilizes the foot, is another noninvasive option. For those with flat feet, custom shoes can be made to offer better foot support. Surgical options include a tunnel tarsal release, in which an incision is made behind the ankle down to the arch of the foot. This releases the ligament and relieves pressure off the nerve. Some doctors use a more minimally invasive surgery, where smaller incisions are made in the ankle and the ligament is stretched out.
If you are suffering from painful sensations in your foot, see a podiatrist who can determine if you are experiencing tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome that is left unchecked can cause permanent nerve damage to the foot.