Conditions & Services

Tarsal Tunnel

The tarsal tunnel lies on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones. It’s a narrow space that’s covered by a thick ligament called the flexor retinaculum. The purpose of the flexor retinaculum is to protect the complex structures insides (arteries, veins, tendons, and nerves). The posterior tibial nerve, one of the main structures that’s protected, is affected with the presence of tarsal tunnel syndrome.

It’s important to treat tarsal tunnel syndrome when you notice symptoms. Delayed treatment can result in permanent nerve injury. If you are in the Akron-Canton, Ohio area and think tarsal tunnel syndrome may be affecting you, please call us at Ohio Foot and Ankle Center.

What is it?

When the posterior tibial nerve is compressed or squeezed, it sends signals along the nerve where the path runs from the inside of the ankle. These signals trigger symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel occurs in the foot, as opposed to in the wrist. Both disorders, however, stem from the compression of a nerve in your extremity.

Some of the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Tingling, burning sensation in the foot
  • Numbness
  • Pain, sometimes nondescript, but it can also be a shooting pain
  • The feeling of an “electrical shock” running to your foot

Symptoms usually occur inside of the ankle and/or on the bottom of the foot. For some, a symptom or symptoms may only be felt in one spot. In others, it may extend to other parts such as the heel, arch, toes, and even the calf.

Am I at risk?

Anyone who has compressed the posterior tibial nerve is at risk for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Some risk factors include being flatfooted, sustaining an injury that produces inflammation, or having a condition that occupies space within the tunnel (such as varicose veins, ganglion cysts, swollen tendons, and arthritic bone spurs).

Diabetes and arthritis can also cause the nerve to swell and be compressed. Often symptoms appear suddenly and are exacerbated by activities like walking, starting a new exercise program or simply overusing the foot.

How is tarsal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

A thorough examination of the foot and ankle will be done at your appointment. Your doctor will manipulate the foot and tap on the nerve to see if symptoms can be reproduced. Advanced imaging studies and tests to determine nerve damage may be ordered if a mass is suspected or if initial treatment does not reduce the symptoms.

It is very important to seek early treatment if any of the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome occur. Proper diagnosis of tarsal tunnel is a priority because it mimics many other foot conditions and if left untreated, permanent nerve damage can occur.

For more details on tarsal tunnel syndrome, visit the ACFAS informational website.