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4 Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome


Tarsal tunnel syndrome—when the tibial nerve, housed in the small space on the inside of your ankle bone, gets compressed—can be tricky to track down. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel in your wrist but its symptoms can mimic other conditions. In addition, the sources of compression on the tarsal tunnel are varied and need to be correctly identified in order to determine the proper treatment course.

Finding the Source

At Paul S. DeMarco, DPM, the first step is a comprehensive foot and ankle exam and a medical history, including details about your symptoms. People suffering from tarsal tunnel syndrome may experience sensations like electrical shocks in their ankle, foot and radiating up the leg in addition to pain and tingling. Sometimes there is a feeling of burning or coldness in the ankle area. These symptoms may appear suddenly, especially after a period of excessive standing or walking or at the start of a new exercise program. Four common causes of nerve compression in the tarsal tunnel are:

  1. Deformity in Foot Structure—if you have flat feet, your heel tends to lean outward and this puts pressure on the tarsal tunnel.
  2. Injury—certain injuries, such as a sprained ankle, which result in swelling around the ankle can cause the nerve to be compressed.
  3. Abnormal Mass in the Tunnel—there are several “foreign bodies” that can invade the tarsal tunnel area and squeeze the nerve. These include: bone spurs, varicose veins, ganglion cysts and even a swollen tendon.
  4. Disease—Arthritis, diabetes and certain other diseases that result in swelling can also force the tarsal tunnel area to be constricted, thereby compressing the nerve.

Due to the varied possible causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome, our board certified foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Paul S. DeMarco, may also order an x-ray (which can be done in our Somers Point office) or other advanced imaging studies. Once the source of tarsal tunnel syndrome is known, the appropriate treatment can be started.

Getting treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome when it is in its earliest stage is very important. Left untreated, permanent nerve damage may result. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of this disorder, contact our office for an appointment today.