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You have probably heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, but did you know that tarsal tunnel syndrome is also a common condition? This is a condition in the feet that is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome except instead of taking place in the wrist it is in the ankle.
The tarsal tunnel is a small tunnel-like space that lies on the inside of the ankle, next to the bone. The “tunnel” is covered with the flexor retinaculum (a thick ligament). This ligament protects and maintains the structures within said tunnel, such as arteries, veins, tendons and nerves.
When one has tarsal tunnel syndrome it means that there is a squeezing on one of the nerves within that tunnel (posterior tibial nerve). This causes symptoms that shoot throughout the trail of the nerve runs from the inside of the ankle into the foot. The compression can cause tingling, numbness and aching in your foot that is sometimes very piercing.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can be caused by anything that produces compression on the nerve. There are several different things that can increase your chances for this.
- Injuries, such as ankle sprains can produce inflammation and swelling can cause the nerve compression.
- People with flat feet are at a higher risk of developing this due to the way the fallen arches cause outward titling of the heel, leaving potential for muscle strain and nerve compression.
- Diabetes, arthritis and other systemic diseases cause swelling and therefore also increasing potential for nerve compression.
- Finally, one other thing that is likely to increase your chance of tarsal tunnel syndrome is an abnormal or enlarged structure, such as a varicose vein, bone spur, swollen tendon or ganglion cyst, that forms within the “tunnel” of space.
A foot and ankle surgeon or a podiatrist, such as Dr. Inderjit Panesar, is best suited to do the examination if you think you might have this problem. The specialist will work with you for a treatment plan after a thorough examination. Sometimes surgery is required, but other cases of tarsal tunnel syndrome can be treated with local steroid injections and weight loss.
Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication can also be very beneficial in reducing the swelling and potentially boosting healing. There are several different things that can be done to help reduce pain and the compression of the posterior tibial nerve, but the first step is getting the proper diagnosis to get the best treatment plan.
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