Friday, July 26, 2013

Then and Now: My battle with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

(Due to the number of emails I get regarding this post, the most asked question I get is who is my chiropractor.  I just want to mention up front that my chiropractor is not accepting new patients so I do not give out his name.  When looking up a chiropractor, I made sure they had a background in treating sports-related injuries.  While TTS is not necessarily a sports injury, chiropractors with that background tend to have more experience treating it.  I used to find a chiropractor in my area.)

It seems like only yesterday I was in tears over having to cancel our trip to Chicago for New Years Eve because I couldn't walk to the door without searing pain much less around the world's most walkable city.

Most of you probably assume I've been all healed up and am back to normal, after all, it has been just over 7 months since I was diagnosed.  I discussed my diagnosis and treatments here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.  (I know that looks insane to link back to all of the posts but I want people who may have found the site looking for hope with their own Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome issues to be able to see how I progressed.)

I am not back to my pre-diagnosis abilities but I'm pretty close.  There are things I have come to terms with that *may* always be a part of my reality like stiff ankles in the morning, achy but not painful muscles after long walks of 3-4+ hours, physical therapy exercises after workouts because when I skip them for a few days, I can tell a difference and not in a good way.

Here are the improvements I've made since my December diagnosis:

Then:  I thought a podiatrist was the only person who could help me with this.

Now:  After a stroke of luck, I found a chiropractor who had successfully treated this condition numerous times.  He specialized in sports medicine so he treated marathoners and runners.  I feel like finding a chiropractor that lists this and has an intricate education in leg muscles and potential issues with them was key.  This was my first time at a chiro and I am so grateful for him.  My podiatrist was actually making my condition worse, never even examined my foot and gave me no real direction.  My chiro did a thorough exam concluding I had not only TTS and Achilles tendonitis but also had a weak muscle structure in the front of my legs that was causing my feet to overcompensate.  He treated each condition and it was his mission to get me better not keep me as a patient and certainly not to do surgery.  I know that my experience is not necessarily the norm as my case was mild but he mentioned the key to success is treating it early and not putting off seeking treatment.

Then: Sometimes just standing up would cause me to wince in pain and walking was not possible past 20 minutes.

Now: I can walk for a minimum of 5 hours without getting leg fatigue.  Anything over 6 hours, I need to make sure I stretch really well afterward or I'll pay for it the next day.  This is a miracle in itself and anyone who has dealt with this knows it.

Then:  Nerve pain and twitching so bad that sleep was not possible the first week.

Now:  I have been cured of the nerve pain/twitching and that between the home ultrasound machine (affiliate link)  I used initially and then the laser therapy the chiropractor did on me to break down scar tissue.

Then:  A painful "catching" of the tendon between my tarsal tunnel and the bone spur that was so bad it could knock me off my feet.  Also a nice case of Achilles tendonitis.  Bonus!  (Dripping with sarcasm)

Now:  Thanks to the breaking up of scar tissue around the bone spur in the back of my ankle, stretches and physical therapy exercises this is no longer an issue.  Every morning while I brush my teeth, I stretch out both legs with a 30-second calf stretch, a 30 second Achilles stretch then switch and repeat on the other leg.  I end every workout with a session on my balance board(affiliate link) calf, quad and ankle stretch.  None of these are optional.

Then:  The pain was so bad I could not even rest my feet on the floor as a passenger in a car or lay my feet on the mattress to sleep.

Now:  The ultrasound and laser therapy (class 4 laser) helped with all nerve pain making sleep and being chauffeured possible.  I would recommend anyone seeking treatment to ask if their chiropractors office has a class 4 laser as this was key in my recovery and it should be common at most offices.

Then:  I had to alter my exercise routine to go from doing plyo, high impact and pretty much anything I wanted to have to be seated and do NO weight bearing exercise.

Now:  I am able to do moderate impact exercise with a few high impact moves like fighter kicks or anything where the impact is front to back on my feet.  Exercises, where the impact is side to side like jumping jacks, can sometimes make me very sore the next day.  This is getting less frequent and is seeming to improve.

Then:  I had no hope that I would ever be normal again.

Now:  I know that as long as I continue with physical therapy exercises and stretching, I should be able to control this condition and live a normal life.

To those of you who may be searching for some kind of information regarding this condition it is important to note that I am NOT a doctor and none of what I have done should be construed as medical advice for your personal situation!   I am simply relaying my experience with this condition so that you can get what I didn't when I was diagnosed...hope.  Consult a physician for your personal diagnosis and recommended treatment.  As long as you have not ignored the pain for an extended period of time, there can be hope to *potentially* be treated non-surgically.  As long as you continue physical therapy exercises daily, you may never have to deal with it again.  My case appears to have been minor in the grand scheme of horror stories I've read but any pain from this condition doesn't feel minor when you're going through it.

Trust your gut.  If the doctor who diagnosed you doesn't seem to have your best interest at heart, go elsewhere.  This applies to any health problem.  Be your own advocate!

Don't be afraid to try alternative medicine like a chiropractor or even acupuncture and deep tissue massage.  I owe my chiro my life.  My depression was all-encompassing and suffocating until I found Dr. B and he told me that he would treat me and everything would be okay.  I can't say that my experience will be yours but anything is worth a try for better health.

Mentally push through the inevitable bouts of frustration on how long recovery takes/is taking.  We live in an instant gratification society and this injury will not properly heal if you push yourself when your body isn't ready.  The best advice my chiro gave me after he cleared me for exercise was to "let pain be my guide."  If it hurt, I stopped and/or modified.

Keep a journal!  From beginning to end, it's important to see the little strides.  I used to not be able to stand long enough to make my lunch.  20 minutes was my limit.  It's easy to take for granted being able to stand as long as I want now and you will appreciate the strides made, no matter how small they may seem to others.

Hang in there and try to stay off the internet horror story sites.  All this did was, frankly, scare the shit out of me!  For every horror story, there are others who were treated, recovered and never bothered to go back to those forums to say "hey everybody, I'm better and this is what worked for me!"  For as informational as the internet can be, it can also be a source of great anxiety, fear and hopelessness which is the whole reason I have shared my personal experience with you.

*2020 Update*

I see this post is getting some traction again so I wanted to update a little more.  I have been TTS free for almost 7 years now.  I'm sharing another potential treatment option that has gained popularity in treating TTS since this first published.  Dry Needling is a treatment I did for compartment syndrome I got in 2016 which is where your muscles lock up and don't release.  (Mine was caused by being crammed on an 8 hour flight in coach with no way to move.)  My physical therapist mentioned it as a treatment for TTS when I listed it as a previous condition.  Research for dry needling in your area to see if this could be an option for you!  If you choose to proceed with it, this treatment should only be done by a trained physical therapist or chiropractor.   Be well!

This post contains a few affiliate links to items I've used to aid my recovery.  I will get a minor commission should you choose to purchase through them.

*Again, I am not a doctor and all information in my blog posts regarding Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome should not be construed as medical advice, only my personal experience as stated in the disclaimer tab. Consult a proper physician for your particular situation!*

Like this post? Don't miss another one...subscribe via email or RSS feed. (Or you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter )


  1. I am so happy for you to have made it to this point. When it first happened you said that if you ever found a way to get to a point where it was not as much of a problem that you would do a big post about it so that someone out there looking for hope would find it. Well here you are. You did it and I am proud of you. I know there are still some painful moments and of course you have to keep up the exercises but back when you were first diagnosed it didn't seem like you would even be able to stand up paddle or walk a long way or anything and look at you now!

  2. Yes definitely come a long way..glad it was diagnosed and u found the doc who could help u thru it

  3. I am so happy you are on the other end of this crud! I know it will always be a little monster hanging out in the corner, waiting to pounce when you let your guard down, but you have the right mindset to avoid that trap.

    I agree that continuing the therapy exercises/stretches even when there is no pain is so key. I'm one of those dummies that constantly slips. I have plantar fasciitis and was able to send it in remission years ago. Then back problems crept up and I stopped my stretches and the pf flared up again. So now I'm fighting both problems but this time with the help of my own magic chiropractor. I'll probably visit him and his successor every month or so for the rest of my life (degenerative disk disease sucks!!!) but at least I am able to live my life.

  4. I've been fighting a plantar fasciitis flare up for about a year now. The next step is shots in my feet and I've been avoiding that like the plague. Seriously - the words "shots" and "feet" should never go together in the same sentence. Yesterday I finally made an appointment with my primary who will refer me to the podiatrist who comes to town once a month and I'll get an appointment set up. I either have to wait for his day, or go to the nearest city of any size and go to a doctor there. That would be ok, but I'm pretty sure I won't be up to driving myself home over an hour after having pokey things stuck in my feet. Hubby's work schedule may or may not allow him to drive me.

  5. It was good to see a recap and update. I remember how devastated you were at first, and I'm sure you thought your weight-loss journey was at an involuntary end, too. It took me over a year to get my left foot back to near-normal after plantar fasciitis, and I can still feel something there, although I wouldn't describe it as pain. Thanks for the reminder to keep doing the exercises.

  6. That last point is so true. I am always Googling illnesses and symptoms and I end up thinking the worst. I'm so glad to see that you've made so much progress. I remember how hopeless you felt when it all first happened. To see you come this far is amazing!

  7. What a struggle, glad to hear you are doing better.

  8. Wow, it *does* seem like that was just yesterday! I'm so happy you've stuck with the program and improved so much!

  9. You have made tremendous progress BECAUSE you have done your leg work (literally and figuratively!) by researching it, not taking what your doctor said as the only word on it, finding a doctor that could treat you appropriately, doing your PT exercises and MORE!

    You are a ROCK STAR! I know how hard it is to fight through injury and have truly shown that it is possible though!

    Way to go, girlie!

  10. Thanks for sharing your story! I had a tarsal tunnel release surgery last year in December and I haven't still fully recovered.
    Yoga helps me but not as much as long walks and runs I would do to feel finally normal again. Those days will (hopefully) come soon... In the meantime let's hope my nerve will finally be better.
    Don't stop to have faith! Hugs!!

  11. Hey! I just want to say THANK YOU for writing all of these blogs about your TTS journey! Im sure you had to be vulnerable to write how you were truly feeling, and I am so so so thankful that you did it! I have TTS, Plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis and have felt helpless and hopeless! I am a hairstylist and salon owner and I work on my feet for 50-60 hours! Ive been told that surgery is my only option , and i really dont want surgery. So i am going to go to a chiropractor and use some of the therapy methods you suggested! heres to hoping that I have the same success as you!!

    1. You're so welcome Meghan. I wish I could say I'm glad you could relate but I don't wish TTS on anyone. If you look at for a chiro, the ones that list they specialize in sports injuries may have more experience with TTS than a regular chiro. Hopefully they will be able to steer you in the right direction. I think my case of TTS was mild in comparison to some and I had muscle issues intertwined with it. I hope you're able to get some relief!

  12. In tears just reading this because I can relate to ALL of what you went through and to see you come out of it on the other side...AMAZING! I am a teacher and fight this battle daily. I have had surgery on one foot with only fair results and the other foot....approaching the point of possible surgery but trying to avoid! Will look into a new chiro and some of your therapy/ exercise moves and revisit some as I have done it all, had it all, etc. I have the unfortunate combo of tendinosis and TTS and I am just tired. Soooo tired. Living like this is not living. Thank you for your blog and helping others like me relate in this club nobody wants to be a member of lol. Take Care.

  13. Finding your site has given me hope, which I'm in short supply of. My suv was T-boned Jan 2016 - 2 months in the hospital. Multiple pelvic fractures and finally after much urging from me for an MRI and EMG, I was diagnosed with TTS. 2 orthopedic surgeons said surgery. No thanks. I've started seeing a chiropractor 2 days ago. MLS laser, acupuncture, adjustments, traction and only time will tell. Thank you so so very much for sharing your journey with us. Prayers for your continued improvement!

  14. I have all the same symptoms and have been misdiagnosed for many years with chronic plantar fasciitis, and no amount of stretching, icing, rest would help me...after reading this i am 99% sure i have TTS. I only wish i lived near you so I could go to the same Chicropractor that you went to, who is so knowledgable about the legs and feet :-( I have no idea who I should go to there are so many chiropractors. I am going to one now who is doing laser treatments, I have had 16 so far with no real improvement. They did 13 laser treatments on the bottom of my feet and now they are doing my achilles/lower calf area. They havent given me any excersises to do, i dont think they are as knowledgable as your Chiro is. Thank you for your site does give me hope :-)

    1. So sorry you have to go through this! I have to update that I have just completed physical therapy for continued issues with my legs. I had a "yank" in my heel that I thought could be bone spurs issues but it was close to the original TTS site. It turns out I've had a muscle imbalance with my hips and glutes. After 3 months of PT which included dry needling to release the muscles, I am much improved. I don't know if this is something that would help anyone out there or not but looking into get a physical therapy consult might be worth looking into. Each doctor from podiatrist to chiropractor has their own specialty and can't recommend things outside their scope so physical therapy might be an ray of hope for anyone suffering from TTS.

  15. Hi, I am not sure if this is still an active blog, but I just found this post . I have gone from being a very active person who biked, did yoga or gym ever day to an invalid stuck at home for the past 3 months after a calf strain that turned into severe pain in my foot post walking on crutches. My podiatrist thinks it's nerve pain and I am waiting the next 3 weeks for a nerve scan. You inspired me to look up chiropractors, and I think I found a comprehensive sports medicine physician, chiropractor online. I will call him after the weekend and hope I can afford him since he's not on my insurance. At this point I will spend my last dollars to have a pain free night and hope for improvement.

  16. Thanks so much for sharing your story!! My husband has been suffering from TTS since the last 2 years and his condition is becoming worse day by day. He has seen multiple orthopaedics and podiatrists but no one has been able to help. The last shot of cortico-steroid injection brought him to a place where he screams in pain :(
    We have lost all hope but reading your blog is soo reassuring. My husband has started going to a chiropractor recently, although he has not experienced any difference yet. Can I ask you about the doctor who treated you? We are in a situation that we are willing to go to any length to get this cured.

    Thank you again so much for your blog!

    -Akriti P


Thanks for taking the time to comment! I appreciate your time! (Heads up though...disrespectful or spam comments will be deleted.)