Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Unraveling Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: A Comprehensive Guide to Diagnosis and Relief

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (TTS) is a condition that affects the posterior tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel—a narrow space within the ankle. Often compared to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist, TTS can lead to pain, tingling, and numbness in the foot. This comprehensive guide explores the causes, diagnostic methods, and a spectrum of treatment options, emphasizing advanced interventional modalities for effective relief.

Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome:

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome typically arises from compression of the posterior tibial nerve within the tarsal tunnel. Contributing factors include:

  1. Flat Feet or Overpronation: Altered foot mechanics causing nerve compression.
  2. Ankle Trauma or Swelling: Injuries leading to increased pressure within the tarsal tunnel.
  3. Systemic Conditions: Diabetes, arthritis, or hypothyroidism contributing to nerve compression.
  4. Tumors or Cysts: Abnormal growths within the tarsal tunnel affecting nerve function.

Examination and Tests to Diagnose a Cause:

Accurate diagnosis of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome involves a combination of:

  1. Clinical Evaluation:
    • Thorough examination of the foot, assessing for tenderness, swelling, and altered sensation.
    • Evaluation of foot posture, gait, and overall biomechanics.
  2. Nerve Conduction Studies:
    • Measuring the speed of electrical impulses along the posterior tibial nerve.
  3. MRI or Ultrasound:
    • Imaging studies to visualize the tarsal tunnel and identify potential compressive factors.
  4. Tinel’s Sign:
    • Tapping over the tarsal tunnel to elicit tingling or pain, indicating nerve irritation.

Location of Pain Indicating a Possible Source:

Pain associated with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is typically localized to the inside of the ankle and the bottom of the foot. The pain may radiate to the toes and is often described as:

  1. Burning or Tingling Sensation: Along the path of the posterior tibial nerve.
  2. Numbness or Weakness: Affecting the arch of the foot and sometimes the toes.

Treatment Options:

1. Conservative Measures:
  • Rest and Elevation: To reduce swelling and alleviate pressure on the nerve.
  • Orthotic Devices: Customized shoe inserts to improve foot mechanics and reduce compression.
2. Physical Therapy:
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises to enhance foot flexibility and support.
3. Medications:
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) for pain and inflammation.
  • Nerve-pain medications in some cases.
4. Corticosteroid Injections:
  • Direct injection into the tarsal tunnel for localized anti-inflammatory effects.
5. Surgery:
  • Release of the tarsal tunnel to decompress the nerve in severe cases.
6. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy:
  • Injection of concentrated platelets to promote healing and reduce inflammation.


Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, while often challenging, is manageable with a combination of conservative measures and targeted interventions. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is crucial for an effective treatment plan. Advanced interventional modalities such as corticosteroid injections and PRP therapy offer promising avenues for those seeking relief from Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Individuals experiencing persistent symptoms should consult with a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment, ensuring a comprehensive approach to regain comfort and functionality in the foot.


  1. Baxter, D. E., & Pfeffer, G. B. (1992). Treatment of chronic heel pain by surgical release of the first branch of the lateral plantar nerve. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 279, 229–236.
  2. Lee, M. J., Kim, S., Yoon, J. S., & Choi, J. H. (2017). Surgical Outcomes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, 56(5), 946–951.

Further Reading:

  1. Dellon, A. L. (1992). Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. In Surgical Treatment of Peripheral Nerve Lesions (pp. 289–300). Thieme.
  2. Patel, A., & Ibrahim, T. (2013). Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: A Review. The Open Orthopaedics Journal, 7, 360–364.
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