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Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.


Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS)

is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and weakness in your toes or foot. The tarsal tunnel is between the bump on the inside of your ankle and ligaments stretched across your foot. Nerves, arteries, and tendons within the tunnel help your foot move and be flexible. TTS is caused by repeated pressure and swelling on the nerve that runs from your ankle to your foot.

Heel, toes, ankle

Signs and symptoms of TTS

may be worse at night, or when you move or stand on your feet:

  • Dull, sharp, or shooting pain in your foot or toes
  • Numbness, tingling, or a burning feeling in your toes
  • Weakness or swelling in your foot
  • An electric shock feeling around your ankle or on the bottom of your foot

Seek care immediately if:

  • You suddenly lose feeling in your foot or toes.
  • Your foot suddenly changes color.

Call your doctor or podiatrist if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for TTS

may include any of the following if your symptoms continue or are severe:

  • Medicines:
    • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
    • A pain cream can be applied to your ankle and foot. The cream may contain an NSAID or other pain medicine.
    • Nerve medicine may be applied as a cream or taken as a pill.
    • A steroid injection may help decrease pain and swelling. Steroids are injected into the tarsal tunnel.
  • Compression stockings may help lower swelling or treat varicose veins. Your healthcare provider can tell you which kind to get, and where to get them.
    Pressure Stockings
  • Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) uses mild electrical impulses to help decrease your ankle and foot pain.
  • Surgery called, tarsal tunnel release, may be used to take pressure off of the nerve in your ankle.

Manage TTS:

  • Apply ice on your ankle. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Rest your feet. Let your ankles and feet rest for a short time between repetitive motions. If you feel pain, stop what you are doing and gently massage your ankle or foot. Your healthcare provider may recommend a controlled ankle movement (CAM) boot for a short time. A CAM boot will keep your ankle from moving.
    Walking Boot
  • Get physical and occupational therapy, if directed. Physical therapists will show you ways to exercise and strengthen your ankle. Occupational therapists will show you safe ways to use your ankle and feet while you do your usual activities.
  • Use a splint as directed. A splint will support your ankle and decrease pressure on the nerve by letting your ankle and foot rest. You may need to wear the splint for up to 8 weeks. Your healthcare provider will tell you how long to wear it each day. He or she may want you to wear it all the time, or only at night.
    Ankle Stirrup Splint
  • Wear properly fitting shoes. Your shoes should have some space at the top, near your toes. Do not wear tight or pointed shoes. Do not wear shoes that have a high heel. Your healthcare provider may also recommend orthotics or padding to put into your shoes.
    Properly Fitting Shoes

Follow up with your doctor or podiatrist as directed:

He or she may want to monitor your condition. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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