Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: Is Physical Therapy the Answer?

December 6, 2019 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) delivers a tingling sensation, swelling, numbness or pain in the foot. It can be felt from the ankle to the heel until it spreads out in the sole. 

This condition develops when the nerves around the ankles, called tibial nerves, become compressed because the foot’s tarsal tunnel has a narrowed passageway. The narrowing of the tarsal tunnel happens due to repeated and consistent pressure. 

The pain and discomfort of Tarsal Tunnel syndrome may initially be gradual, according to our foot doctors. However, the problem eventually worsens, especially if it remains untreated.

Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

There are various reasons why tarsal tunnel syndrome develops. According to the National Center for Biotechnology information, this condition has both external and natural causes.

External causes for TTS include:

  • Constantly wearing ill-fitting shoes
  • Trauma to the feet (injury, sprain, dislocation or fracture)
  • Post-surgical scarring
  • Diseases like diabetes or systemic inflammatory arthropathies

Natural causes of this condition include:

  • Enlarged veins
  • Tendinopathy
  • Tenosynovitis (inflammation)
  • Perineural fibrosis (scar tissues)

If you have flat feet, you risk developing tarsal tunnel syndrome as well. If you are a bit on the heavy side, your weight could also be adding more pressure on your feet.

Forgoing a visit to a foot doctor for proper diagnosis of TTS might result in irreversible nerve damage. If this happens, you could find walking, standing or doing normal activities too painful, thus rendering you immobile and dependent on mobility tools or other people’s help to move about.

Physical Therapy for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The best treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome depends on the diagnosis of your foot doctor as each case is different. However, those opting for a surgical solution might develop a 13 percent complication rate, per the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

Meanwhile, physical therapy is usually highly recommended if you have tarsal tunnel syndrome as it can work to improve or revive your foot and leg’s full function. Physical therapy can also help you maintain your usual activities despite experiencing some foot discomfort.  

There are different ways a physical therapist can approach your case since the symptoms vary per patient. However, you may be given recommended the following treatments::

  • Muscle-strengthening exercises, especially for the back of your lower leg
  • Balance and coordination routines that may have been disrupted because of TTS
  • Nerve gliding activities to improve your foot’s function 
  • Orthotics instruction and guidance to determine the proper position of your foot, when using devices, to help decrease the pressure on the tibial nerve 

The physical therapist may also continuously educate you on recognizing the symptoms of your condition as a form of preventive treatment. It’s easier to manage TTS if you have a better understanding of what is really happening with your foot through education and information. 

With continued physical therapy of at least four weeks for tarsal tunnel syndrome, you could feel a significant improvement in your condition. Further PT sessions could bring more positive changes so that you may no longer need to undergo an invasive procedure like surgery.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapy specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.