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Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – A case of a trapped nerve

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A painful shooting, burning, or numbing sensation that radiates down the inside of your foot, through your big toe and second and third toes beside it, may be caused by compression of a nerve in you ankle. Many people may be familiar with the carpal tunnel syndrome of the hands and wrists. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a similar condition in the foot and ankle. The tarsal tunnel is located behind the bump on the inside of your ankle. A layer of connective tissue which overlies the bones creates a ‘tunnel’ in which vessels, nerves and tendon enter into the foot. There is little empty space in this area so the nerve can easily become compressed due to any changes to the area. The three main causes for this compression are swelling, fracture, or foot mechanics.

If these symptoms are affecting you, make an appointment with Austin Foot & Ankle specialists today. A physical exam of your feet will help Dr. Thomajan distinguish which category your problem falls into. He may utilize a tuning fork or gentle tapping with a reflex hammer in order to distinguish if the pain is due to the nerve or some other cause. X-ray imaging may also be used to discover any bony problems that may be contributing to the compression.

Treatments are based on the cause of the entrapment. Fractures must be realigned and set in proper alignment for healing to occur. Depending on the cause of swelling, compression stockings, anti-inflammatory medication, and a follow up with your family doctor may all be warranted. Foot mechanics are often best corrected with arch supports, padding, or custom molded orthotics. Over the counter pain medication and doctor recommended inserts should be utilized for 4 – 6 weeks. If there is no improvement with these, then a local injection may help to calm the tissues and alleviate pressure. Pain that persists through these treatments may require surgical intervention to remove any dysfunctional tissues that may be irritating the nerve.

Until next time keep your feet and ankles happy and healthy, Austin!

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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