The tarsal tunnel – the source of tarsal tunnel syndrome – is a narrow space that lies on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones, known as the tarsal tunnel. The tunnel is covered with a thick ligament (the flexor retinaculum) that protects and maintains the structures contained within the tunnel—arteries, veins, tendons and nerves. One of these structures is the posterior tibial nerve, which is the focus of tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by anything that produces compression on the posterior tibial nerve, such as:
Patients with tarsal tunnel syndrome experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Symptoms are typically felt on the inside of the ankle and/or on the bottom of the foot. In some people, a symptom may be isolated and occur in just one spot. In others, it may extend to the heel, arch, toes and even the calf.
Sometimes the symptoms of the syndrome appear suddenly. They are often brought on or aggravated by overuse of the foot, such as in prolonged standing, walking, exercising or beginning a new exercise program.
It is important to seek early treatment if any of the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome occur. If left untreated, the condition progresses and may result in permanent nerve damage. In addition, because the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome can be confused with other conditions, proper evaluation is essential so that a correct diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment initiated.
The foot and ankle surgeon will examine the foot to arrive at a diagnosis and determine if there is any loss of feeling. During this examination, the surgeon will position the foot and tap on the nerve to see if the symptoms can be reproduced. He or she will also press on the area to help determine if a small mass is present.
Advanced imaging studies may be ordered if a mass is suspected or if initial treatment does not reduce the symptoms. Studies used to evaluate nerve problems—electromyography and nerve conduction velocity (EMG/NCV)—may be ordered if the condition shows no improvement with nonsurgical treatment.
Many treatment options, often used in combination, are available to treat tarsal tunnel syndrome. These include:
Sometimes surgery is the best option for treating tarsal tunnel syndrome. The foot and ankle surgeon will determine if surgery is necessary and will select the appropriate procedure or procedures based on the cause of the condition.
If you think you may be suffering from Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, do not hesitate to call us (949) 833-3406 or request an appointment online. Our doctors are well-versed in this condition and can develop an effective treatment course to get you back in action as soon as possible.