What Is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression on the posterior tibial nerve that produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot. That narrow path is called the tarsal tunnel.
The tunnel is covered with a thick ligament that protects and maintains the structures contained within the tunnel—arteries, veins, tendons and nerves. One of these structures is the posterior tibial nerve.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by anything that produces the compression listed above:
- A flat-footed person is at risk for developing tarsal tunnel syndrome, because the outward tilting of the heel that occurs with fallen arches can produce strain and compression on the nerve.
- An enlarged or abnormal structure that occupies space within the tunnel can compress the nerve. Some examples include a varicose vein, ganglion cyst, swollen tendon or arthritic bone spur.
- An injury, such as an ankle sprain, may produce inflammation and swelling in or near the tunnel, resulting in compression of the nerve.
Patients with tarsal tunnel syndrome experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Tingling, burning or a sensation similar to an electrical shock
- Pain, including shooting pain
Symptoms are often brought on or aggravated by overuse of the foot, such as in prolonged standing, walking, exercising or beginning a new exercise program.