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ankle in pain

Burning, Numbness & Tingling Around Your Ankle? It May Be Your Tarsal Tunnel

If you’re experiencing unusual sensations around your ankle, like pins and needles, numbness, tingling and burning (alongside pain), then you may have a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome. Today, we chatted to our podiatrist, Jays, about this condition and what you can expect.

What is tarsal tunnel syndrome?

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is an irritation of the major nerve on the inside of the ankle. When the nerve is irritated, the neurological symptoms (mentioned above) come on.

How does tarsal tunnel syndrome feel?

Patients usually describe their discomfort as burning or pins and needles across the sole of the foot and into the toes. It is usually worse when standing, walking or doing exercise but can also occur whilst resting. Pain is usually not in a specific spot but is spread over a generalised area.

How long do people put up with the symptoms for before seeking help?

People have usually had their symptoms for at least a month before seeking professional help from a podiatrist. The condition can be misdiagnosed as a soft tissue injury (like a ligament, tendon or muscle injury). Therefore, people usually initially treat it unsuccessfully with methods such as ice, rolling a golf ball under the sole of the foot, or stretching. This does not work of course as it does not address the cause which is irritation of the posterior tibial nerve.

How do you diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome?

A positive Tinel’s sign is classic for tarsal tunnel syndrome. This is where we gently tap on the nerve behind the ankle and the patient experiences tingling in the foot or sometimes even up the leg.

It is important to rule out other conditions that may appear similar or affect a similar area. Soft tissue injuries such as ligament strains or tendinitis should be ruled out. Fractures too should be excluded. It is important to rule out any underlying health condition that can produce neurological symptoms too such as diabetes. The slump test or straight leg raise test can also be used to rule out nerve entrapment from the spine.

How do you treat tarsal tunnel syndrome?

Treatment is about addressing the cause. If the posterior tibial nerve is compressed due to pressure from ankle movement due to a flat foot, treatment can be as simple as correcting foot posture with appropriate footwear and/or orthotics. If the cause is swelling from poor venous or lymphatic drainage, anything that aids drainage can help, such as exercise, circulation boosters or massage. If the cause is a sprained ankle, treating the acute ankle injury with PRICE (protect, rest, ice, compression and elevation) can help.

What’s the long-term outcome if you have tarsal tunnel syndrome?

The long term prognosis is often very good for people with tarsal tunnel syndrome. It is not a chronic soft tissue injury like Achilles tendonitis, or a joint disease like arthritis, so treatment is often much more straightforward and simple. If the cause is addressed, tarsal tunnel syndrome is 100% resolved in most people.

Struggling with foot and ankle pain?

If you’re struggling with foot and ankle pain and think that you may have tarsal tunnel syndrome, we’d love to help. Book your appointment with Jays or one of our other knowledgeable and experienced podiatrists by clicking here or calling us on 07 4638 3022

Our expert team will get you out of pain and back to doing the things you love.