Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: main symptoms, causes and how to treat

Tarsal tunnel syndrome corresponds to compression of the nerve that passes through the ankle and sole of the foot, resulting in pain, a burning sensation and tingling in the ankle and feet that worsens when walking, but which improves at rest.

This syndrome usually occurs as a result of some situation that causes compression of the structures located in the tarsal tunnel, such as fractures or sprains or as a result of diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and gout, for example.

If symptoms of the tarsal tunnel syndrome are perceived, it is important to go to the orthopedist to have tests done to allow the diagnosis of this syndrome and, thus, the treatment, which usually involves physical therapy, can be indicated.

Main symptoms

The main symptom of tarsal tunnel syndrome is pain in the ankle that can radiate to the soles of the feet and, in some cases, even toes, in addition to tingling, numbness, swelling and difficulty walking. The symptoms worsen when walking, running or when wearing certain shoes, however relief of symptoms occurs when you are at rest.

In more severe cases, which is when nerve compression is not identified and treated, it is possible that the pain persists even during rest.

Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome happens as a consequence of situations that lead to compression of the tibial nerve, being the main causes:

  • Ankle fractures and sprains;
  • Diseases that can cause inflammation and swelling in the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and gout, for example;
  • As a result of heart or kidney failure;
  • Use of inappropriate shoes;
  • Bad posture of the feet, that is, when the ankles are very inward;
  • Presence of cysts or varicose veins at the site, as it leads to compression of local structures.

If any symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are noticed, it is recommended to go to the orthopedist to have tests performed to help complete the diagnosis and, thus, treatment can be started. The diagnosis is usually made by analyzing the feet and conducting a nerve conduction test, in which the doctor checks whether the nerve information is being transmitted correctly by the supposedly compressed nerve. Thus, the examination of nerve conduction allows not only to conclude the diagnosis, but also to indicate the extent of the lesion.

How is the treatment

Treatment aims to decompress the nerve and thus relieve symptoms. Thus, the orthopedist can recommend immobilizing the site to decrease the pressure of the site and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve symptoms and accelerate the recovery process.

In addition, it is recommended to decrease the frequency and intensity of physical activities, until symptoms improve, and to wear appropriate shoes so that there is no increase in pressure in the area and, consequently, the syndrome worsens.

In some cases, the orthopedist may recommend physical therapy sessions, which can be done with stretching exercises or ultrasound treatments, to decompress the area and improve symptoms. In the most severe cases, in which treatment with drugs and physiotherapy is not enough, surgery may be necessary to decompress the site.