Relief from Tarsal Tunnel Pain

Eric H. Williams MD
Specializing in reconstructive surgery and pain relief in the Greater Baltimore area.

Patients come to see us for treatment of peripheral nerve problems throughout the entire body. One condition that causes pain and difficulty is tarsal tunnel syndrome. If this is a problem you are experiencing, we may be able to provide the treatment you need.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome has symptoms that include (but are not limited to):

  • Severe burning pain in the bottom of the foot
  • Pain coming up into the inner ankle (particularly behind the medial malleolus – the bone that sticks out at your ankle)
  • Electrical sensations that feel as though your foot is plugged into an electrical socket

This particular condition may have developed as a result of compression of the tibial nerve and/or its branches – the lateral and medial plantar nerves, and the calcaneal branch. The nerve compression could be the result of repetitive motion, overuse of the ankle, traumatic injury, diabetes or hyperthyroidism, obesity, and abnormal growths (cysts, tumors). Sometimes, issues even persist after a procedure to address tarsal tunnel syndrome.

When you have pain as a result of any of those root causes, you will want to know what can be done about it. Fortunately, there are various methods that can be rather beneficial.

If you are just starting to experience any of those aforementioned symptoms, you should probably consult with a podiatrist. These doctors specialize in foot and ankle issues and may be able to treat the problem with conservative treatment that includes special footwear, orthotic devices, physical therapy, or other nonsurgical options. For some patients, a combination of these options provides relief.

When conservative treatment is insufficient, surgery is often recommended. As we discuss this option, it’s important to know that our understanding of what constitutes a successful tarsal tunnel syndrome surgery underwent a pretty significant change, thanks to the research and work by A. Lee Dellon, MD, PhD.

In the past, it was widely regarded that the entire issue was the result of compression on the tibial nerve within the tarsal tunnel. Dr. Dellon’s work served to illustrate the fact that the branches of the tibial nerve (the latera and medial plantar nerves, and the calcaneal branch)—each of which has its own respective tunnel—typically need to be decompressed, along with the tibial nerve itself.

Given that this revolutionary discovery is still fairly new (as far as surgical procedures go), one of the reasons you might have tarsal tunnel pain after a surgery for tarsal tunnel syndrome is that your procedure was incomplete.

If your surgeon was working from an outdated model, he or she may have simply released the tibial nerve, without releasing the branches downstream. When this is the problem, your path to relief is to have the rest of the surgery performed in its entirety. This is something we can do for you to stop the pain and allow you to go back to your favorite activities.

There is actually another situation wherein tarsal tunnel pain is prevalent after surgery, and this is when nerves are either entrapped in or compressed by scar tissue. In this case, we may be able to perform a procedure to clean out the previous surgical site, thereby relieving the nerve pain.

No matter if you need to request a consultation with our Baltimore office or would simply like additional information on how you can find relief from tarsal tunnel pain, call us at (410) 709-3868 and we can help.

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