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Don’t Ignore Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Do you have pain on the inside of your ankle? Does your discomfort sometimes develop as a burning or tingling feeling or numbness?

You may have tarsal tunnel syndrome, where the posterior tibial nerve is squeezed or compressed.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is where a nerve is compressed near the wrist’s carpal bones resulting in a burning feeling or numbness. Correspondingly, tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs in the feet in a “tunnel” on the inside of your ankle next to the ankle bones. This tunnel encloses arteries, veins, nerves and tendons and is protected by a thick ligament.

One of the nerves in the tunnel is the posterior tibial nerve, and when it’s compressed it can cause pain or numbness. Sometimes the symptoms are felt on the bottom of the foot or the inside of the ankle.

What Causes Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

There are several scenarios that can cause the posterior tibial nerve to be compressed:

  • The outward tilting of the heel in someone with flat feet can compress and strain the nerve.
  • An injury such as an ankle sprain that results in inflammation and swelling near the tunnel.
  • An enlarged or abnormal formation that builds up in the tunnel and takes up space, so the nerve is compressed: For example, a swollen tendon, varicose vein, arthritic bone spur or ganglion cyst.
  • Some systemic diseases like diabetes or arthritis that cause swelling to compress the nerve.

Treating Tarsal Tunnel

In diagnosing tarsal tunnel, it’s important to rule out other conditions that exhibit similar symptoms. Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM will perform a careful examination of your foot and evaluate your loss of feeling. We can order advanced imaging studies to eliminate other possible diagnoses.

Our prescribed conservative treatments will include:

  • Resting the foot and icing often for 20 minutes each hour.
  • A cast that can restrict movement of the foot to allow tissues and the nerve to heal.
  • Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, with your doctor’s permission, to ease inflammation.
  • Physical therapy and ultrasound to relieve symptoms.
  • Extra-supportive shoes.
  • Custom-fitted orthotics to support the arch and reduce the movements that cause nerve compression.
  • Wearing a foot brace to reduce pressure, especially for those with flat feet or severe tarsal tunnel symptoms.

It’s important to know that if tarsal tunnel syndrome is left untreated, further and even permanent nerve damage may result.

If these conservative or non-surgical treatments are not effective, we’ll discuss surgical options with you.

Persistent Foot or Ankle Pain Can Lead to Serious Conditions

Dr. Alexopoulos, board certified podiatrist has extensive experience with foot and ankle pain including nerve compression. Many treatments and surgeries can be addressed right here in our office. Please call our Chicago office at (773) 561-8100 or request an appointment via the website. Don’t let a foot problem get worse – call us today!