Transverse Tarsal Joint Pain

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Transverse tarsal joint pain refers to pain or discomfort across the foot. This foot pain can radiate into the ankles and toes, and cause difficulties with daily activities or sports-related movements, especially ankle-intense activities such as running, jumping or gymnastics. Pain can have a sudden onset, as seen with an injury, or a gradual onset, as seen with structural changes of the foot and ankle.

The Tarsal Bones

The tarsals are a group of seven small bones that makes up the foot. The tarsal bone talus, also referred to as the ankle bone, connects the ankle to the tibia and fibula and forms the subtalar joint. The tibia and the fibula are the two long bones of the lower leg. The subtalar joint is responsible for movement of the foot and ankle. Also included are the calcaneous or heel bone and five irregular bones, which create the arch of the foot.

Transverse Tarsal Joint Pain

Transverse tarsal joint pain is foot pain or discomfort horizontally across the foot. This can occur from an injury or structural changes of the joint from conditions such as arthritis. Foot pain in this area can also occur from sprains, strain, muscle spasms or overuse. Tarsal tunnel syndrome or TTS for example, is similar to carpal tunnel of the hand. This is where there is an impingement of the posterior tibial nerve, which can cause pain, numbness and a general weakness of the foot or ankle.

Symptoms of Transverse Tarsal Joint Pain

Foot pain or discomfort can be felt across the foot and can radiate in and around the ankle and subtalar joint, and into the toes. These symptoms can be present with or without swelling of the foot or ankle. Pain can be exacerbated with weight bearing on the foot or with movement.

Treatment of Transverse Tarsal Joint Pain

Treatment of transverse tarsal joint pain includes the management of symptoms. The application of ice to the subtalar joint and the use of muscle relaxants or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can ease the inflammation or swelling of the area. This can help release nerve entrapment, which may be causing the pain. In severe cases of inflammation, steroidal injections may be necessary. Other treatment options include physical therapy for pain-relieving modalities.

Rehabilitation of Transverse Tarsal Joint Pain

Once initial pain and discomfort has subsided, rehabilitation or the restoration of pain-free movement is the primary goal. This can be accomplished through a stretching and exercise program to restore normal foot and ankle function. Rehabilitation may also include specialized activities to return to prior physical activities, such as sports. Taping or bracing may be necessary to provide support for the affected joint until full healing and recovery is attained.

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References

  • The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy; Robert Berkow, MD, Editor-in-Chief; 1987
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