A disorder that starts in childhood but isn't diagnosed till adulthood

The bones in your feet are the foundation of your body.

The tarsal bones are actually seven bones that make up your heel and midfoot. A tarsal coalition occurs when two tarsal bones are abnormally connected and can involve cartilage, tissue and bone. The tarsal bones are essential in helping the foot move normally so this fusion of bones can cause pain and limit motion in the foot.

Tarsal coalition is genetic and most often occurs during fetal development when individual bones do not form properly. Infection, arthritis and injury can cause tarsal coalition to develop but these cases are more rare.


What are the Symptoms of Tarsal Coalition?

Our feet really are a complex structure and one missing, deformed or injured component can have a significant impact on foot health and function. While most people with tarsal coalition have it since birth, symptoms often do not fully present themselves until adolescence when the bones start to mature. When symptoms or pain develop, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • Pain when standing or walking
  • Muscle spasms in the leg
  • Flatfoot
  • Tired or fatigued legs
  • Recurring sprains
  • Pain on the top or outside of the foot
  • Stiffness of the foot and ankle


What Treatment is Available for Tarsal Coalition?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to fully diagnose this condition until bones are mature and there are many cases where it isn’t discovered until adulthood. Dr. Danciger will perform a thorough examination with X-ray imaging to accurately confirm the presence of tarsal coalition. The first steps of treatment for this condition will focus on helping to relieve your symptoms and immobilize the affected joint. Some of the options effective in treating tarsal coalition include:

  • Immobilization with a cast or a boot
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Custom orthotics that help take weight off of the affected joint
  • Physical therapy, massage and exercises
  • Laser treatments
  • Steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Surgical intervention

Dr. Danciger will attempt all forms of conservative treatment to alleviate symptoms but when they fail to be effective, surgery may be necessary. Surgery for tarsal coalition may involve either separating the two bones or fusing them together in a more solid way to give the foot more function. After surgery, a cast or boot will be necessary to prevent weight bearing on the foot. Depending on the type of surgery, complete rehabilitation and healing could take anywhere from 2-8 weeks.

While this condition is not very common, it is not rare either so it is highly advised that you seek treatment if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned. Tarsal coalition can become painful and affect your ability to walk and work. Talk to Dr. Danciger about your symptoms and get a thorough examination to find the source of your pain and have treatment started as soon as possible. Call our Palm Desert office today at (760) 568-0108.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle