Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is not as often discussed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (inflammation and a compressed median nerve in the wrist). TTS is similar but occurs when you have a pinched nerve in your ankle. Furthermore, it usually develops after a previous ankle injury.
The tarsal tunnel itself is a really narrow space that lies on the inside of the ankle directly next to the bone. The tunnel is covered in a thick ligament that protects this area, the area in the ankle that contains the tibial nerve. This main tibial nerve gets compressed, and this is when a person will start to feel pain and numbness in the ankle and foot.
This condition is also completely treatable by a medical professional after diagnosis, usually by lab tests or imaging, and depending on the severity, resolves after treatment within a few months.
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Symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
If you start to experience symptoms such as a burning pain in the bottom of the foot, or pain that worsens when you stand and apply pressure, you could possibly be developing the first symptom of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Other symptoms might include tingling at the sole of your feet and numbness to the limb. Some people who suffer from Tarsal Tunnel describe it as a feeling of pins and needles in the base of your affected foot.
What to Know for Healing
If you believe you might have symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome, it is best to see your doctor quickly so they can identify the cause of your discomfort. As soon as you have a proper treatment plan, the sooner you can start feeling and walking better.
Some common causes of this ailment are the patients simply having very flat feet or excess bony growths in the ankle. Naturally, high arches in your feet can pose some danger to the tarsal tunnel. Arthritis and certain tumors can cause these types of issues as well. Even certain autoimmune diseases increase your chances of joint injury. Most likely, the culprit is caused by an injury or previous trauma to the area, such as a fracture.
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Regardless of the underlying condition, and no matter what treatment plan is right for the patient, starting early on when pain first begins is essential to getting back on your feet.
Prescribed treatments for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome are usually benign, and typically steroid injections can be used to reduce swelling in the ankle. Common steroids such as Prednisone and Cortisone are injected to relieve the pressure temporarily. Once the inflammation reduces, the tissues in the ankle will release off the pinched nerve. From there, the pain should start to subside. Health professionals will try to keep from surgery unless necessary and first try prescribing rest and medications such as Ibuprofen.
In other cases, using splints and braces may help immobilize the foot and restrict movement that ultimately compresses that main tibial nerve. Doctors might prescribe specially made custom footwear that supports the arch of your feet.
Rest is best, so try and stay off the affected foot as much as possible. This break encourages the healing process and stops further injury. One can also apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area for 20 minutes intervals four times a day.
There are many ways at home to help treat your tarsal tunnel symptoms. Exercises are a great way to keep up strength and stay flexible. Maintaining a good range of motion is critical when it comes to ankle problems. Ankle rotation exercises, even for five minutes a day, can help keep your ankle working at full capacity.
It’s simple: Sit on a chair and stretch your legs out while rotating your ankle counterclockwise five times, then reversing direction.
Stretching before any exercise routine or physical therapy is important as well. You don’t actually want to cause more damage to the area, and no exercise or treatment should cause excruciating pain. If exerting yourself feels uncomfortable, make sure you stop and rest immediately.
Furthermore, implementing the use of analgesics before and after stretching the area will help reduce pain.
Ointments and creams and products such as Herbal Ice Hemp Muscle Rub can provide fast-acting pain relief without relying on pain medications and OTC drugs.
Contrast bath therapy is another form of treatment that allows you to be comfortable in warm temperatures as you stretch the ankle. Do a series of brief, repetitive ankle movements in warm water, then switch to cold. You can easily do this in a bathtub or by using two containers for a foot soak.
Soak in cold water for a minute or so, then move that same foot to the one with warm water and soak that for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this for about twenty minutes, and you may find that contrast bath therapy is effective at alleviating your symptoms without using prescription medicines.
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When surgery is absolutely needed to treat your ankle, you can start therapy within a week post-surgery, depending on the situation. You may be able to return to normal activities after six weeks or so. Surgery is mostly done when the doctor finds a mass that is the cause of the nerve compression. Removing the mass or tumor will start to improve your symptoms right away after you heal up.
When stitches and bandages are removed, you will most likely need some physical therapy to help exercise and strengthen the muscle that supports you when you walk. Supporting the arch of your foot is crucial, so a doctor might order specific stretches to encourage the tibial nerve to slide correctly into the tarsal tunnel.
To avoid further injury and possible nerve damage, it is essential to get a diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible. Rest is always your best medicine, and there are many natural ways to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome.
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