Cicero Podiatrist | Cicero Newsletter | IL | Luis E Mendoza, DPM |

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Luis E. Mendoza, DPM

(708) 780-8661

Cicero and Chicago 



Tibial Nerve Disorders

Tibial Nerve Disorders

If you experience burning, shooting pains or numbness in a part of your foot or lower leg, you may assume that you have overused your muscles. It is true that wear to the muscles and joints sometimes cause foot pain, especially when a person has used their feet for an extended period. But another possibility is that there is something wrong with the tibial nerve. Damage to a nerve can be permanent when not treated quickly. The tibial nerve is responsible for motorizing most of the inner muscles of the foot, making it particularly important for the body’s mechanical function. The tibial nerve also supplies feeling from the back of the lower leg, and its branches provide sensation to the bottom of the foot.

What is the Tarsal Tunnel?

The tibial nerve branches off from the sciatic nerve in the back of the knee. It runs through the bottom of the leg and enters the foot through a structure called the tarsal tunnel. Like its wrist counterpart, the tarsal tunnel is made up of bones and connective tissues. These become compressed for various reasons. It can also have internal obstructions which would put pressure on the tibial nerve, or pull it from the other side of the tunnel. Arteries, veins, and tendons also travel through the tarsal tunnel.

Causes of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Inflammation outside the tarsal tunnel leaves less room inside. If a person has an injury such as a sprained ankle, they are likely to have inflammation around the tarsal tunnel, and if a fracture heals badly, the nerves may become permanently compressed. Diseases such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders can also contribute to inflammation.

Objects inside the tunnel that could be compressing the tibial nerve include bone spurs and ganglion cysts. It is possible that the veins have suffered wear and tear, causing them to become varicose. There may also be a lesion somewhere along the tibial nerve’s path, or a person with flat feet may have their heel bone twisted in a way that would stretch the nerve.


Overuse is the most common reason for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. First-line treatments are minimally invasive. People suffering from foot pain should treat inflammation with rest, ice, compression, and elevation. A podiatrist may provide a patient with anti-inflammatory medications delivered orally or through an injection. Stress on the tibial nerve is tested for by tapping it, which is known as a Tinel’s test. A patient may need to do physical therapy to keep their leg strong and flexible.

In more severe cases, it may be necessary for a patient to temporarily wear a brace. People with fallen arches may need foot orthotics. A podiatrist may want to seal off varicose veins also. If pain is recurrent, a podiatrist may make a surgical incision into one of the ligaments comprising the tarsal tunnel to stretch it out. This is unlikely the earlier treatment begins, so anybody suffering the mentioned symptoms are encouraged to get examined.

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