Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Signs & Symptons

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression, or squeezing, on the posterior tibial nerve that produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs in the wrist. Both disorders arise from the compression of a nerve in a confined space.

Causes

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by anything that produces compression on the posterior tibial nerve, such as:

  • A person with flat feet is at risk for developing tarsal tunnel syndrome, because the outward tilting of the heel that occurs with “fallen” arches can produce strain and compression on the nerve.
  • An enlarged or abnormal structure that occupies space within the tunnel can compress the nerve. Some examples include a varicose vein, ganglion cyst, swollen tendon, and arthritic bone spur.
  • An injury, such as an ankle sprain, may produce inflammation and swelling in or near the tunnel, resulting in compression of the nerve.
  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes or arthritis can cause swelling, thus compressing the nerve.

Treatment

There are a variety of treatment options which can help to treat Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome:

  • Rest and Ice. Staying off the foot prevents further injury and encourages healing. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area can help to ease the pain
  • Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation.
  • Orthotic devices. Custom shoe inserts may be prescribed to help maintain the arch and limit excessive motion that can cause compression of the nerve.