When a ligament compresses the tibial nerve in the ankle, tarsal tunnel syndrome can develop. Tarsal tunnel can cause serious pain, weakness and numbness of the foot and ankle. Surgery to relieve pressure on the tibial nerve is often the only solution to tarsal tunnel problems. During surgery, the ankle is opened and the tibial nerve is moved away from any compression points. The entire procedure takes only 30 to 40 minutes, but recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
After surgery, you will be sent home with an Ace bandage covering the incision. Keep the bandage on for at least three days, or as long as your doctor recommends. It is important for the wound to stay dry for the first few days, so seal a plastic bag around your foot when you shower. Three days after surgery, you should remove the Ace bandage and apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment, such as Neosporin. Continue to apply the ointment daily, and keep the wound covered with fresh sterile gauze. You may see small spots of blood on the dressing, but notify your doctor if you notice a lot of blood or any oddly coloured discharge on the bandage or seeping from the wound. Your doctor will remove the sutures about 10 days after surgery, at which point you can usually leave the wound uncovered. Your doctor will give you specific wound care instructions.
It is normal to experience mild to moderate pain, especially in the first few days following your surgery. Most of the time, doctors send tarsal tunnel surgery patients home with prescription pain medication. Be sure to take prescription pain pills as directed to reduce the risk of unpleasant side effects and dependency. You can also use acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain as well. Generally, you should not experience severe or worsening pain, so let your doctor know if you experience either. Elevate your foot whenever possible to reduce swelling and pain.
You should not put any weight on your operated foot for at least 10 days after surgery, unless directed to do so by your doctor. Keeping weight off your foot will help speed the healing process and help ensure that you do not tear the incision. After your sutures are removed around day 10 of your recovery, you may begin placing progressive weight on your foot as directed by your doctor. Most patients resume full weight bearing within two to six weeks.
Your surgeon will usually prescribe physical therapy beginning the second week of your tarsal tunnel surgery recovery. Most people go through about three months of physical therapy with one to three sessions per week. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises and stretches that you can do at home to maintain your ankle strength and range of motion.