Auteur: Podiatre Montreal
You may be much more familiar with the carpal tunnel than the tarsal canal. The tarsal canal syndrome, is then very similar to the carpal tunnel syndrome, which will rather concern the wrist and the hand while the tarsal will concern the leg and the foot.
The tarsal tunnel syndrome causes pain and even numbness and burning in the foot, in fact this syndrome will be caused by an irritation of the tarsal nerve that follows a path from the inside of the ankle to the back of the ankle bone.
But several questions arise, because very often this syndrome is associated with other ailments such as plantar fasciitis or a flat foot or accentuated by intensive walking for example. So what can cause tarsal tunnel syndrome in the foot? What are the symptoms? How is it diagnosed? You will find all the answers to your questions in this article.
Causes and symptoms – tarsal canal syndrome of the foot
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused in the same way as carpal tunnel syndrome, which is why it is often referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome of the foot. It is most commonly caused by a compression of the nerve that will then cause pain. Repetitive traction on the nerve will then create injuries and inflammation that will cause severe pain when walking, but also at rest.
In the vast majority of cases, when tarsal canal syndrome is diagnosed, it is very often due to nerve traction, bone excrescence, a ganglion, or another pathology such as a flat foot, a fracture, osteoarthritis or even in some cases, swelling of the ankle caused either by heart or kidney failure. The tarsal tunnel is located at the level of the ankle, passing behind the ankle bone and extending to the bottom of the foot. This is why the symptoms of this syndrome are usually felt at this level.
This syndrome can cause many symptoms, but the most common will be a burning sensation, a painful tingling sensation felt in the ankle and foot, numbness, tingling, but also and above all, very strong sharp pain from the ankle to the heel to the toes. These pains may be intensified when walking or running intensively or even when wearing inadequate footwear and will be less intense at rest, but will never completely disappear.
The tarsal canal syndrome is not an end in itself and many treatments are possible at the present time, whether surgical or non-surgical. We will talk about them below.
Most often non-surgical treatments are used beforehand to reduce the symptoms at the nerve level, as this syndrome is often accompanied by pathologies of the flat foot as well as plantar fasciitis, the treatments of these pathologies will be perfectly suitable. It will then be necessary to offer support for the arch of the foot such as comfortable shoes or prefabricated orthoses that will serve to disperse the foot’s strength.
Other treatments will also be proposed that are less invasive than the mandatory corticosteroid injection in certain cases such as when swelling forms around the ankle, which are the practice of stretching exercises or a modification of daily activities such as staying in a standing position as little as possible. When we talk about stretching, it must involve the ankle, the calf, but also the foot. Weight loss can also in some cases reduce the symptoms of tarsal canal syndrome since it will simply decrease the force on the foot and therefore on the nerve. In some cases, unfortunately, so-called “non-surgical” treatments will not be sufficient and you will still have to go through surgery.
These treatments will then allow a decompression of the tarsal nerve, but beware, they should not be taken lightly, surgical treatment comes as a last resort! Indeed, when this technique is used, it is not the underlying pathology that caused the syndrome that is treated, but only the symptom.
The technique is done under local anesthesia, but may in some cases cause some complications such as an intensification of symptoms and pain.
Not to be overlooked when the syndrome is caused by another disease such as diabetes or heart or kidney failure, these diseases will first have to be treated to hope that the symptoms disappear.
When to consult a Podiatrist?
When the pain becomes unbearable, you will then have to make the decision to go to a health professional such as a Podiatrist who will be able to diagnose your tarsal tunnel syndrome as soon as possible. In fact, leaving this type of pain lying around can lead to nerve damage that is very bad for the ankle and foot. To confirm the diagnosis, your Podiatrist will have to perform a clinical examination of the foot. He will then confirm or not the presence of the tarsal tunnel syndrome, but also the presence of other joint pathologies such as plantar fasciitis or a flat foot. In some cases, he will only need to palpate the foot to evaluate and diagnose the pathology. But very often he will still have to perform a nerve conduction study to evaluate sensations in the tibial nerve and the sole of the foot, as well as an imaging procedure such as X-rays or magnetic resonance to eliminate any trace of mass on the nerve, for example.
If you think you may have Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, we advise you to quickly go to a specialized clinic in Montreal to consult a Podiatrist. He will then be able to determine whether or not surgery will be required. Don’t waste any more time and quickly consult the appropriate health care professional.