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If numbness, tingling and pain are experienced in the feet, you may have a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome. This occurs when the posterior tibial nerve, which runs along the inside of the ankle into the foot, is squeezed in the tarsal tunnel thereby causing varying sensations in the foot. The tarsal tunnel is a thin space along the inside of the ankle beside the ankle bones. This space contains various nerves, arteries, and tendons, and includes the posterior tibial nerve.

Causes may include flat feet, arthritis, or a possible ankle sprain. Early symptoms consisting of tingling or numbness in the foot may be present and then vanish, but will become more relentless as the nerve pressure increases. A diagnosis may become necessary and is often arrived at by a physical exam or x-ray. To encourage healing, it’s important to rest the foot as often as possible and to schedule a consultation with a podiatrist for viable treatment options.

What is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

Tarsal tunnel syndrome, which can also be called tibial nerve dysfunction, is an uncommon condition of misfiring peripheral nerves in the foot. The tibial nerve is the peripheral nerve in the leg responsible for sensation and movement of the foot and calf muscles. In tarsal tunnel syndrome, the tibial nerve is damaged, causing problems with movement and feeling in the foot of the affected leg.

Common Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Pressure or an injury – Direct pressure on the tibial nerve for an extended period of time, sometimes caused by other body structures close by or near the knee. Injuries that produce inflammation and swelling in or around the tunnel may place pressure on the posterior tibial nerve.
  • Diseases that damage nerves – diseases including diabetes or arthritis may cause tarsal tunnel syndrome.
  • Flat feet – Those with flat feet are at risk for developing the condition, as the extra pressure and strain placed on the foot may compress the posterior tibial nerve.
  • At times, tarsal tunnel syndrome can appear without an obvious cause in some cases.

Effects of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Different sensations, an afflicted person may experience pain, tingling, burning or other unusual sensations in the foot of the affected leg.
  • The foot muscles, toes and ankle become weaker, and curling your toes or flexing your foot can become difficult.
  • If condition worsens, infections and ulcers may develop on the foot that is experiencing the syndrome.

How to Diagnose Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

A physical exam of the leg can help identify the presence of tarsal tunnel syndrome. Medical tests, such as a nerve biopsy or an MRI, are also used to diagnose the condition. Patients may receive physical therapy and prescriptive medication. In extreme cases, some may require surgery.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments

Treating tarsal tunnel syndrome will depend on the decision of your podiatrist. Multiple options are available, however, and can include rest, ice, immobilization, oral medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical therapy, injection therapy, orthotics, supportive shoes, braces, and surgery.

Contact a Podiatrist

Tarsal tunnel syndrome can be very uncomfortable to live with. If you are experiencing tarsal tunnel syndrome, contact Dr. Jeff Pawlowski of Red Mountain Footcare. Our doctor can provide the care you need to keep you pain-free and on your feet. If you have any questions, please feel free to call or schedule an appointment for our office located in Mesa, AZ. We offer the newest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all your foot and ankle needs.