Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome| Causes and Symptoms | MedStar Health

At MedStar Health, our foot and ankle specialists are all fellowship-trained in foot and ankle surgery and focus exclusively on managing problems related to the feet. When your feet or ankles are not working properly, it can significantly lower your quality of life. Our goal is to get you back on your feet and back to your regular life as quickly and painlessly as possible. We perform over a thousand foot and ankle surgeries each year, including tarsal tunnel surgery. We take the time to collaborate with other specialists that you may need during your treatment or recovery to ensure that you have the best experience possible and make a full and safe recovery.

What is the tarsal tunnel?

The tarsal tunnel is the portion of the body where the leg nerve (tibial nerve) travels down to the ankle. Many other structures are found here as well, including tendons, veins, and arteries, leaving little room for expansion.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a foot and ankle nerve disorder, which occurs when there is swelling in the tarsal tunnel, compressing the tibial nerve. Patients often experience severe discomfort and pain in the inner foot and ankle, which may increase in sensitivity throughout the day. Walking and standing can become difficult and require constant breaks off the feet.

What are the causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome?

There are a number of causes of compression of the tibial nerve. These include:

  • Injuries, including ankle sprains 

  • Diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis

  • Unnatural foot shape, including flat feet or fallen arches

  • Enlarged or irregular foot structures, including varicose veins or bone spurs

What are the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome?

Any of the following symptoms may warrant a consultation with a MedStar Health specialist:

  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Tingling

Sensations associated with tarsal tunnel syndrome may occur in any of these areas of the foot or ankle:

  • Along the inside of the ankle
  • Inner side of the heel
  • Arch of the foot
  • Inner sole of the foot

Symptoms tend to increase as the day progresses and are usually worsened with increased activity, such as walking or exercise. Prolonged standing in one place may also be an aggravating factor.

How is tarsal tunnel syndrome treated?

If you are suffering from this condition, it is important to visit MedStar Health for a comprehensive evaluation. One of our skilled doctors may recommend conservative treatment, when possible.

This may include:

In situations where conservative options are unsuccessful, your physician may recommend tarsal tunnel release surgery. This surgery is performed through a small incision behind the ankle bone on the inside of the foot and involves removing scar tissue in order to release the compressed nerve.