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Tarsal tunnel syndrome

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What is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is a term generally used when something is pressing, impinging or has caused damage to the posterior tibial nerve which is a nerve that runs behind the medial malleolus (the lumpy bone on the inside of the ankle). It is often compared to the much more commonly known carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrists and hands.

True tarsal tunnel syndrome can be considered quite rare, however irritation of the nerve can occur alongside other conditions such as PTTD / Adult acquired flat foot.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness, tingling, burning, shooting pains, sharp pains and even feelings like an electric shock. These symptoms can go into the foot, usually on the inside, towards the big toe (A Tinel’s Sign)  or they can go up the leg (Valleix Sign).

Gently pressing or tapping on the nerve where it travels behind and below the bony lump on the inside of the ankle (The Medial Malleolus) on the inside of the medial ankle bone may cause the symptoms to increase or cause radiating symptoms into the foot or up the leg.

When to see a Podiatrist?

Due to the complexity surrounding tarsal tunnel syndrome, and the possible causes and associated conditions, we recommend getting it assessed by a Podiatrist.

They will be able to clinically assess and palpate the area, but may also advise on imaging to rule out possible space occupying lesions such as growths or tumours, and they may advise nerve conduction studies to test the nerve.

They may also look at your foot mechanics as your foot shape could cause compression or stress of the area, leading to tarsal tunnel symptoms.

In some cases, surgery is required which would be organised through a Podiatric or Orthopaedic Surgeon.

If you book an appointment to see a Podiatrist, it is a good idea to take the footwear you usually wear so that you can show them.

If you developed sudden numbness, pain, or weakness, this could be a more serious condition linked to nerve damage, so you should seek appropriate medical advice as soon as possible.

Medial Ankle Osteoarthritis Could also cause pain in this area and if you are suffering with pain in the ankle(s) it is worth thinking about your footwear and see if this could be the cause.