Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal Coalition Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms

What Is Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal coalition is when two of the tarsal bones in the back of the foot form an abnormal connection. This connection may be comprised of bone, cartilage, or surrounding fibrous tissue. There are five tarsal bones in the foot:
  • Heel bone (calcaneus)
  • Talus
  • Navicular
  • Cuboid
  • Cuneiform
In a healthy foot, these bones allow normal function as regards range of motion. However, tarsal coalition may limit range of motion and/or cause pain.

What Causes Tarsal Coalition?

Tarsal coalition typically occurs when the tarsal bones fail to develop correctly during the fetal stage. Less commonly, the condition may develop after an injury, infection, or because of arthritis.

What Are the Symptoms of Tarsal Coalition?

Although most children who have tarsal coalition were born with it, symptoms typically do not develop until adolescence (around 9 to 16 years old). This is because their bones are still maturing. Tarsal coalition symptoms include:
  • Pain during weight-bearing activities (walking, standing, etc.)
  • Flat feet (may only affect one foot)
  • Gait abnormalities
  • Legs feeling tired or fatigued
  • Muscle spasms in the leg that cause the foot turn outward
  • Stiffness in the foot and/or ankle
Your child may also make it all the way to adulthood without experiencing any of these symptoms.

How Is Tarsal Coalition Diagnosed?

Diagnosing tarsal coalition may be difficult, particularly while the bones are still maturing. Your pediatric podiatrist should take a full medical history, including when symptoms began and for how long.

Dr. Jarman also performs a physical examination of the child’s foot and ankle. Finally, he orders diagnostic imaging, starting with x-rays.

Tarsal Coalition Conservative Treatment Options

Whenever possible, Dr. Jarman employs conservative treatment (i.e. non-surgical). The goal is restoring proper range of motion and relieving any pain. Conservative treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Physical therapy, such as range of motion exercises and massage
  • Orthotic devices to restore range of motion and help relieve pressure and therefore pain
  • Anesthetic injections to relax muscle spasms
  • Cortisone injections to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Immobilizing the affected foot with a cast or boot

Is Surgery Ever Needed to Treat Tarsal Coalition?

Yes, sometimes treating tarsal coalition does require surgery. Specifically, if your child does not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be an option. The child’s specific condition, activity levels, and age help determine the best course of action.

If your child has recurring pain, muscle spasms, or any of the other symptoms listed above, call 480-534-7220 to schedule an appointment with Pediatric Foot & Ankle.

Your child’s feet are designed for life

Make an appointment today if your child has Pediatric Tarsal Coalition.
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