Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) is a condition that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the foot. The tarsal tunnel is a tubular structure found near the inner part of the ankle. Tendons, blood vessels and nerves pass through the tarsal tunnel, where they are protected by a thick ligament. TTS results when the nerves inside the tunnel are compressed against the surrounding ankle bones.
TTS is caused by compression of the nerves within the tarsal tunnel. Common causes include irregular pressure on the ankle due to having flat feet or after a traumatic injury. The pressure placed on the nerve may cause painful inflammation and swelling. Abnormal structures near the tunnel, such as cysts, enlarged veins, or bone spurs, may also press against nerves, causing TTS. Other potential causes include diabetes, which may cause swelling and nerve damage in the feet, or arthritis.
Individuals affected by TTS typically experience tingling, numbness, or burning pain in the foot, heel, and/or toes. The pain often worsens with activity. Symptoms are often most noticeable after starting a new exercise program, spending long periods of time standing or walking, or standing up after not applying pressure to the feet for a long period of time. If left untreated, TTS may cause permanent damage to the nerve and muscle.
After symptoms are reported, TTS is diagnosed by physical exam, medical imaging, and nerve studies. Proper treatment may prevent symptoms from progressing. Resting and applying ice to the affected area may help reduce swelling. Wearing a brace and supportive shoes to restrict movements may help promote healing of damaged tissues and reduce symptoms. Medications, especially anti-inflammatory agents, may be given through pills or injections. In severe, long-term cases, surgery may be used for treatment. If you are experiencing TTS, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.