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Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition of the foot caused by pressure on the Posterior Tibial Nerve as it passes along a passage just below the bony bit on the inside of the ankle or medial malleolus called the tarsal tunnel.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome symptoms include pain which is often described as a burning pain which radiates into the arch of the foot, heel and sometimes the toes. Pins and needles or numbness may be felt in the sole of the foot. Pain may be worse when running or when standing for long periods of time. Tarsal tunnel syndrome pain is often worse at night and relieved by rest.
A professional therapist may use tinels test to diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome. This involves tapping the nerve just behind the medial malleolus or bony bit of the ankle with a rubber hammer. The test is positive if the tapping reproduces pain. The area under the medial malleolus may be tender to touch.
The symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome may initially be mistaken for plantar fasciitis which also causes pain from the medial heel and throughout the arch of the foot. Neural symptoms (such as tingling or numbness) as well as the location of tenderness when touching the area should help to easily distinguish between the conditions.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is an entrapment/compression neuropathy of the posterior tibial nerve. If you overpronate (your foot rolls in when you walk or run as shown) then pressure is put on these nerves which can become inflamed causing tarsal tunnel syndrome. Because the condition is often due to overpronation, it is common for bilateral tarsal tunnel syndrome to occur (i.e. in both feet!)
The term anterior tarsal tunnel syndrome is sometimes applied to a rare entrapment of the deep peroneal nerve at the front of the ankle, although this is not strictly the same as tarsal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms appear on the top of the foot and radiate towards the 1st and 2nd toes.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can be both idiopathic - meaning it occurs spontaneously - or can be associated with a traumatic injury.
In people involved in running or running based sports, where the condition occurs spontaneously, then overpronation is the most frequent cause.
Surgery may be undertaken if conservative treatment has failed. The operation is undertaken to decompress the nerve by freeing the soft tissue structures in the area, creating more space for the nerve.
The success rate from tarsal tunnel syndrome surgery is mixed, with a high risk of complications. The procedure itself is very fast, although a complete recovery can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.