Tarsal Coalition: Bridges That Harm

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Bridge building can be a positive thing. These structures get people and vehicles from one place to another more quickly, and in remote places they can be one’s only tie to a wider world. Metaphorically, they help us establish or renew relationships with others from whom we are separated. When bridges form between the bones in your foot (called tarsal coalition), however, it can end up causing you pain.

What’s Behind Tarsal Coalition?

Your foot has seven bones at the back and midfoot called the tarsals. Of those, three are usually involved in this condition: the calcaneus (heel bone), the talus (between the heel and leg bones), and the navicular (the bone just ahead of the talus)

The story might start as far back as the womb. The joining of two bones in the back of your foot could have begun then, due to the gene that affects how tarsal bones grow. The condition can also develop as the result of an infection or previous injury that causes scar tissue of some type to form.

Because children’s bones stay soft for quite a while, you may not know you have a problem until adolescence, or even later in adulthood. That’s because the symptoms don’t show up until the bones or other tissues begin to ossify or stiffen in place.

How Do You Diagnose Tarsal Coalition?

You may be one of those who will never know you have this condition, because often it doesn’t produce any symptoms or deformity. However, there are common signs to look for. One is stiffness and pain in your foot—especially in the part just ahead of or below your ankle.

Another symptom is having rigid flat feet. Because the arch doesn’t spring up and down to absorb the stress of your weight, it may be hard for you to walk on uneven surfaces. Flat feet often lead to overpronation as well, as you try to lessen the trauma to your foot bones, and that often means an increased risk of ankle sprains.

Pain and walking with a limp are also obvious signs that something is wrong. If you feel any of these symptoms, it is time to have us check out your feet. We will thoroughly examine your gait and your feet, as well as your past medical history, and may order certain imaging tests as well. An X-ray will often show the coalition quite clearly, but a CT scan can be even more effective at discovering the exact location and extent of the bar or bridge that is joining two bones.

When and How Is Tarsal Coalition Treated?

If you are not having any symptoms, no treatment is necessary. If you develop pain and stiffness, or other problems related to having flat feet, we can find a treatment plan that works for you. We will begin with basic home remedies like resting from strenuous activity. Simply taking a break from running or other impact activities for a few weeks can often relieve the pain.

We may advise the use of a boot or cast for some time. These hold the tarsal bones in position and reduce stress on them so the achiness and stiffness go away. Orthotics may also help with this by giving better support to your arch and heel and correcting a harmful gait.

We can also try injecting medication into the affected area to relieve pain. Range of motion exercises, massage, physical therapy, or using ultrasound may also be effective pain relief measures. If these remedies do not take care of your pain, surgical options are available.

Let Abbott Foot & Ankle Clinic Help

Don’t just put up with the pain and inconvenience of not being able to enjoy your favorite activities, or watch your teen miss out on the fun of life. If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of tarsal coalition, call Chiropodist Tony Abbott in Collingwood, ON, at (705) 444-9929 and set up an appointment to be seen. You can also schedule right through our website using the contact us tab. We look forward to working with you to relieve your pain and get you back to full activity soon.