Almost everyone has heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. With the advent and widespread use of the computer over the last 20 years, carpel tunnel has become more common than ever before. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when a nerve from the arm becomes compressed and irritated as it attempts to pass into the hand through a very small tunnel in the wrist. This causes numbness and discomfort in the hand, and if left untreated can cause permanent damage to the muscles in the hand.
Did you know there is a similar condition that exists in the feet? Similar to the hand, a nerve passes from the leg to the foot via a tunnel on the inside of the ankle. The contents of this tunnel include muscle tendons, a large artery, and veins. If anything within that tunnel becomes inflamed and enlarged (for example a varicose vein, or an inflamed tendon with extra fluid around it), the nerve within the tunnel will be entrapped and compressed. This condition is called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Although there are many causes of this condition, the most common cause has to do with the mechanics of the way you walk.
Symptoms of this condition are very similar to that seen in the hand. The nerve compressed in tarsal tunnel gives sensation to the entire sole of the foot. Therefore, if Taral Tunnel Syndrome is present, you should feel a pins and needles, numbness, or shooting and burning sensations everywhere on the bottom of the foot. This pain may worsen with prolonged activity such as running or walking. In extreme situations, the pain may wake you up at night. If left untreated, the muscles in the foot may atrophy and cause hammertoes and other pressure points.
Tarsal tunnel can usually be treated by conservative measures, but without resolution, there are surgical options that exist to help decompress that area. We will discuss them in the next post.