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Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome


Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a squeezing or pinching of the tibial nerve. This nerve runs down the back of the leg to the inner ankle. In this area of the ankle joint, a complex mix of nerves, tendons, and ligaments meet. This makes it more likely that the tibial nerve could become pinched.

Certain things may increase your risk of the nerve being pinched. They include:

Symptoms include burning foot pain. You may also have aching, numbness, and tingling in the sole or arch of the foot.

At first, treatment may include rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen or naproxen. It can also include footwear that supports your feet. Examples are arch supports, custom orthotics, and support shoes. Your doctor might suggest physical therapy. If these treatments don't help, you might get steroid shots or medicine that targets nerve pain.

If these treatments don't help relieve your symptoms, you may need surgery.

How is tarsal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam of your foot and ankle. You may also have tests such as a nerve test or imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI.

How to care for yourself when you have tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • If you can, stop or reduce the activity that causes your symptoms. If you can't stop the activity, take breaks often. Use these breaks to rest and stretch your foot and ankle.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • To ease pain, put ice or a cold pack on your foot and ankle. Do this for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • If your doctor or physical therapist tells you to wear a splint, arch support, or orthotic, wear it as directed. This will help keep your foot and ankle in a neutral position. It also eases pressure on your tibial nerve.
  • Ask your doctor if you should have physical therapy.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome: when to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your pain or other problems don't get better with home care.
  • You want to learn more about physical therapy.
  • You have any problems with your medicine.
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