Space-Flight Precision: Bad Tarsal Connections

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

“Houston, we have a problem.” Space travel, and pretty much anything to do with it in the U.S., is historically rooted in Houston. That’s part of why the Space Center Houston is such a big attraction. If there’s anything rockets and space travel can teach us, it definitely includes how important it is that every tool, robot, and shuttle be built with each part in exactly the right place. One wrong connection and problems arise. The human body has that level of precision, too, in order to function at its best. You see this in the feet and how one extra connection, like tarsal coalition, can create many different problems.

Tarsal coalition is an issue with extra bone, cartilage, or other fibrous tissue connecting what should be two separate bones in your heel or arch. The extra tissue is something you’re born with, though it doesn’t cause problems until the feet mature and the bones harden in adolescence. At that point, the extra tissue hardens as well and prevents those two bones in the back or middle of the foot from moving when they need to. This causes pain and stiffness through the arch, making normal walking or even standing fairly uncomfortable.

In most cases, though, this can be treated conservatively, letting you or your teen get back to normal daily life. The key is to alleviate the pressure on the painful midfoot. Here are a few methods to do that:

  • Rest – Take a break from all hard-impact and foot-strenuous activities. This reduces pressure on your tarsal bones.
  • Immobilize – Serious cases might need the feet to be immobilized. Wearing a boot or walking cast supports and stabilizes the pressure on the foot.
  • Support – For most people, custom orthotics provide sufficient cushioning and stabilization to alleviate the pressure on the arch.
If the foot pain is persistent and limiting mobility or normal life, and these conservative measures aren’t helping, the condition might actually need surgery. Our team at Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX, will walk with you through this whole process of determining the best treatments for you or your teen. Keep in mind, though, that the longer it goes untreated, the harder it is to manage. Don’t wait to send your “Houston, we have a problem” call. Make an appointment with us by calling (281) 497-2850.
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