The tarsal tunnel is a relatively hollow space inside the ankle that is a conduit for the nerves, veins, arteries, and tendons that pass through the area. A major nerve that supplies the foot called the posterior tibial nerve travels through the tunnel. When it becomes pinched or compressed from stress, pressure, or disease it can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in a condition known as tarsal tunnel syndrome — which can be confused with plantar fasciitis — so be sure to see your foot doctor for the proper diagnosis.
4 possible causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome include the following:
- Injury—Spraining or severely straining your ankle can cause swelling in the tarsal tunnel thereby pinching the nerve.
- Growths and other tissues in the tunnel—The space in the tunnel can become crowded by cysts, tendonitis, varicose veins and other tissues causing nerve compression and pain.
- Diseases— Including arthritis and diabetes cause inflammation that result in compression of the posterior tibial nerve.
- Arch problems—When you have poorly supported arches, it can cause the heel to tilt outward which produces strain on the posterior tibial nerve.
Some treatments for tarsal tunnel syndrome consist of the following:
- Conservative treatments— For tarsal tunnel include resting the affected foot, icing the foot for twenty minutes several times a day, and taking anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or Tylenol.
- Steroid treatment—A steroid injection may be used to reduce swelling around the nerve which will eliminate pain, but there may be side effects.
- Custom fitted orthotic inserts—Support the arch and reduce the pinching that is contributing to undesirable nerve effects like numbness and tingling.
If you are experiencing the pain of tarsal tunnel syndrome, see your foot doctor for the proper care. At Your Next Step, our team of board-certified podiatrists has access to advanced technologies, along with years of experience, to help diagnose and treat a variety of foot and ankle problems, including sports injuries, joint pain, toe deformities, nail fungus, chronic tendon pain, and skin problems. Dr. Eric Ricefield, Dr. Mark Yagodich and Dr. Aliza V. Eisen provide high-quality foot and ankle care to patients in the greater Philadelphia area at our offices conveniently located in Ardmore, Paoli, and Downingtown. Please contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.