Tarsal tunnel syndrome is compression or squeezing on the posterior tibial nerve at the inner aspect of the ankle. This painful condition is often due to injury or inflammation. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel refers to the compression of a nerve in a confined space. The tarsal tunnel is an area created by the very strong, laciniate ligament that covers a bony canal through which pass some of the major nerve, artery, vein, and tendons of the foot. Individuals who suffer from tarsal tunnel syndrome exhibit symptoms that include tingling, burning sensations, numbness, and shooting pain. These symptoms occur most often at rest or just before sleeping at night.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome may be caused by:
*An injury such as a fracture, ankle sprain, or contusion
*Masses pressing on the nerve
*Strenuous athletic activity
*Varicose veins that press on the nerve
*Abnormally large nerves which result in the compression against the ligament that covers the tarsal tunnel
*Continuous, multiple traumas that stretch the nerve
*Compensating for other leg or foot problems such as short leg syndrome, hip and knee abnormalities, or heel pain
Patients with tarsal tunnel syndrome experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Fortunately, most cases of tarsal tunnel syndrome generally heal by themselves with rest and elimination of the inciting activity. Soft and supportive shoes, orthotics, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed for mild cases of tarsal tunnel syndrome. Severe cases, however, require prompt treatment to help prevent nerve damage.
A physician will start the treatment by testing the nerve to rule out other nerve conditions and to confirm the diagnosis of tarsal tunnel syndrome. After confirmation, treatment begins by reducing the inflammation of the nerve with the use of bracing as well as rest.
If the condition does not respond to initial nonsurgical treatment, surgery may be required to explore the tarsal tunnel and release the pressure on the nerve.