Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- Tarsal tunnel symptoms—like pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and weakness in the foot—can often be treated at home.
- Take OTC pain relievers and use ice to reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Wear an ankle brace or sleeve for support.
When you may need a provider
- Symptoms do not improve after 2–3 weeks of home treatment.
- You develop severe pain or weakness (foot drop).
Go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Your foot becomes pale and cold.
- You have severe or sudden onset pain or weakness that makes you unable to walk or put weight on the leg.
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When to see a healthcare provider
Tarsal tunnel syndrome usually gets better with home treatments. You should see a healthcare provider if your symptoms don’t improve after 2–3 weeks of regular home treatment.
Over time, tarsal tunnel symptoms can lead to increasing pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the foot and ankle. If left untreated, the muscles in the foot may start shrinking (atrophy).
Tarsal tunnel syndrome has similar symptoms to other foot and ankle conditions like arthritis, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and some nerve conditions. Numbness or tingling in the foot along with worsening weakness and pain can be signs of another condition. So it’s important to see a healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen or you aren’t sure you have tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can be difficult to diagnose in some cases. If treatments aren’t helping, your doctor may recommend getting X-rays or an MRI. In some cases, a special nerve test called an EMG may be ordered to check the nerves in your foot and ankle.
What to expect from your doctor visit
For mild to moderate cases, your provider may recommend physical therapy, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and a short period of immobilization in a cast or walking boot. If you don’t notice an improvement after 6–8 weeks of trying these treatments, your provider may suggest a cortisone injection to reduce inflammation.
In rare cases, surgery to release pressure on the nerves and tendons at the ankle (tarsal tunnel release) may be recommended.
Prescription medications for tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Meloxicam (Mobic)
- Nabumetone (Relafen)
- Celecoxib (Celebrex)
- Diclofenac (Voltaren)
- Naproxen (Naprosyn)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Pregabalin (Lyrica)
Types of tarsal tunnel syndrome providers
- A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
- An orthopedist is a musculoskeletal specialist who can do additional testing and may be able to provide steroid injections or surgery.
- A podiatrist is a foot specialist who can help diagnose and treat symptoms.
Treating tarsal tunnel syndrome at home
Tarsal tunnel symptoms—like pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, and mild weakness—can be treated at home by applying ice, wearing a brace or splint, and taking OTC anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen.
You often have to take NSAIDs regularly for at least 2 weeks to notice an improvement. Try not to stop taking these medications too soon as they need time to reduce swelling and inflammation. Applying ice to the area can also help relieve swelling and dull pain.
Placing a heel cup or heel wedge inside your shoe may take pressure off of the affected area. Avoid footwear that causes pain or excessive pressure in your foot and ankle.
- Naproxen (Aleve)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Wellness and prevention
- Avoid tight or poorly fitting footwear.
- Rest, ice, and elevate the leg if you have a flare-up.
- Do gentle foot and ankle stretching and strengthening exercises.