Ankle and Feet Issues and Care Tips: A Podiatry Blog

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3 Things to Know About Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

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If you are experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, you might have a nerve condition in your foot called tarsal tunnel syndrome. This condition is affected by the nerves and tendons along the tarsal tunnel, which goes from the foot to the ankle bone. Here are some things to know about this medical condition.

There Are Many Different Causes

Tarsal tunnel syndrome can be caused by injuries, genetics, and certain foot conditions. For example, you are at a higher risk of developing this condition if you have flat feet. This is due to the extra strain being put on the tarsal nerve. If you sprain your ankle or foot, that causes inflammation that can occur close to the nerve and cause this condition. Some other causes include a compressed nerve due to a cyst or swollen tendons, arthritis, and diabetes causing compression of the nerve. 

The Symptoms Often Occur Gradually

When you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, it may come on slowly, to where you don't notice all the symptoms at first. It may begin with mild numbness or a tingling sensation, similar to the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and other nerve issues. This may start to worsen to where you can't feel an entire part of your foot, or start experiencing a burning sensation when walking or standing. You may also start to have a sharp, shooting pain, like experiencing electrical shock. You will feel these sensations near the bottom of the foot or closer to the ankle.

Specialists May Need to Diagnose the Condition

Your regular doctor will likely not be able to diagnose and treat this condition. If you suspect you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, you should either see your podiatrist or a nerve specialist. They will need to perform a physical exam, followed by asking about your symptoms and medical history. A series of tests are performed to help diagnose the condition, including an EMG, x-rays, and MRI or CT imaging scans. There are non-surgical and surgical treatments available. Taking anti-inflammatory medications and wearing orthotics are common non-surgical treatments. You may also get steroid injections in the nerves to reduce the swelling. Tarsal tunnel release is a common surgical procedure if other treatment methods aren't effective.

Make sure if you have any symptoms of this condition, you speak to your doctor or podiatrist as soon as possible. They need to get started on the diagnosis and treatment so the condition doesn't worsen.