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Getting a Foot Up on Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

By Dr. Molly Casey

Your Foot Pain

If you’ve ever had any consistent foot pain you know that it can really put a cramp in your daily life and routine. Tarsal tunnel syndrome (aka tibial nerve dysfunction) is a common cause of foot pain that can affect lay people and athletes alike. This is not to be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, as this is similar but a condition of the wrist. So what is tarsal tunnel syndrome and can chiropractic care help?


The foot is made of up numerous bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. The joints between the bottom of the leg and the tibia and fibula are located at the tarsals (equivalent to carpal bones of the wrist) and are commonly known as the ankle. The joints between the tarsals and metatarsals (long mid-bones of foot) are analogous to the wrist bones and mid part of the hand. The joints between the metatarsals and phalanges (toes) are analogous to mid bones of the hand to finger.

All structures of the body receive and communicate information with the brain through the nervous system. There are also numerous nerves and nerve fibers that innervate and control the foot. These nerves travel through tunnels and can be compressed.

The tarsal tunnel is on the inside of the ankle and its top boundary is a thick band of fibrous tissue called the flexor retinaculum and the floor is the posterior (back) part of the talus and calcaneous (both tarsal bones) and the side of the lower part of the tibia called the medial malleolus. There are nerves, blood vessels, and muscles that run through the tunnel. The posterior tibial nerve is compressed in tarsal tunnel syndrome.


Common symptoms with this condition include numbness, tingling, and/or pain in the heel and/or bottom of the foot. The sensation changes can go into the first three toes (big toe and the two next closest). The symptoms can go as high as the lower portion of the ankle. Pain can be sharp-shooting and electrical in nature. This can often be confused with plantar fasciitis.

Why does it happen?

Causes and Care

Causes: What is behind the entrapment of the nerve? Of course there are different reasons for different folks. Less frequent causes can be from cysts or benign tumors. More common causes are bone spurs, flat feet or overuse during high activity levels creating restrictions of the calcaneuous, talus or another lower extremity joint. It’s common that patients who suffer from this syndrome also have low back (lumbar) spinal and sacroiliac joint restrictions.

Care: Can conservative chiropractic treatment help? Yes, particularly when the cause is related to joint restrictions, loss of range of motion, and/or repetitive use. The chiropractic adjustment restores motion and function follows, as well as improved vascular and lymph flow that occurs. As a result, inflammation can decrease, the impinged nerve can breathe, if you will, and undesirable symptoms subside. So, absolutely chiropractic can help!

If you find yourself with symptoms and an irritating foot issue stop in to The Joint Chiropractic. Let us help you help yourself and get you back on your feet and to your regular daily routine.

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