Causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by either compression, impingement or entrapment of the posterior tibial nerve as it travels through the tarsal tunnel on the inside of the ankle. Common causes of tarsal tunnel nerve entrapment include:
- Poor foot mechanics or excess foot pronation (rolling inwards of the foot).
- Flat feet
- An injury to another structure in the tarsal tunnel such as a tendon.
- An acute injury to the foot and ankle that results in swelling around the inside of the ankle.
- Irregular structures arising in the tarsal tunnel area, such as ganglion cysts, tumours, lipomas, bone spurs and varicose veins.
- Systemic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes that may lead to swelling and make the nerve more susceptible to compression.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome diagnosis
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is usually easily diagnosed clinically by our Melbourne podiatrists, who are experts in identifying heel pain conditions of the foot. In cases of doubt or where the cause is not established (such as damage to bone, tendons, or presence of soft tissue lesions), then our podiatrists may refer you for either an ultrasound scan or an MRI to aid diagnosis.
Podiatry treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome
Treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome by our Melbourne podiatrists is aimed at treating the cause and reducing the compression or damage to the posterior tibial nerve in the foot.
Common podiatry treatment options include:
- Foot strapping
- Orthotics to address foot mechanics
- Stretching and strengthening programs
- Footwear advice and modification
- Rest, ice and activity modification
- Oral medications (such as NSAIDs)
- Ultrasound therapy and heat
In more severe cases of tarsal tunnel syndrome or in cases that don’t respond to conservative treatment the following treatment may be required:
- Immobolisation or CAM walker
- Injection or cortisone therapy
NB. If tarsal tunnel syndrome is not treated then ongoing nerve compression can eventually lead to permanent nerve damage.
Permanent nerve damage will result in the loss of muscles and the loss of foot function. So you should take any numbness or tingling pain in your foot seriously and book an assessment with one of our podiatrists at the earliest convenience.