Tarsal Coalition: What Is It, Diagnosis & Treatments

Twelve-year-old Emily had always been a bit of a tomboy. She loved playing soccer and basketball with her friends, and she never seemed to get hurt. But one day, while playing soccer, she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her foot. She limped off the field and went to the doctor, who diagnosed her with tarsal coalition.

Tarsal coalition is a condition in which two or more bones in the foot are fused together. This can cause pain, stiffness, and instability in the foot. Emily’s doctor told her that there was no cure for the tarsal coalition, but that there were treatments that could help to relieve her symptoms.

Emily started wearing orthotics, which are special shoes that help to support the arch of the foot. She also started physical therapy, which helped to improve her flexibility and strength. With these treatments, Emily was able to continue playing sports and enjoying her active lifestyle.

Tarsal coalition can be a challenging condition to live with, but with the right treatment, it is possible to manage the symptoms and live a full and active life.

What is a Tarsal Coalition?

A tarsal coalition is when two bones in the back of the foot (the tarsal bones) grow together in a way that isn’t normal. This abnormal link, which can be made of bone, cartilage, or connective tissue, can make it hard to move one or both feet and cause Ankle Sprain.

The calcaneus (heel bone), talus, navicular, cuboid, and cuneiform bones are all part of the tarsal bones. Together, these bones give the foot the movement it needs to work properly.


Most of the time, tarsal coalition happens when a baby is still in the womb. This means that the bones don’t form properly. Some of the less common reasons for the tarsal coalition are an illness, arthritis, or harm to the area in the past.


Many people are born with the tarsal coalition, but the signs usually don’t show up until the bones start to grow, usually between the ages of 9 and 16. Sometimes, there are no signs when a child is young. But pain and other signs may show up later in life.

There may be one or more of the following signs of the tarsal coalition:

  • When walking or standing, there is slight to serious pain.
  • Weak or tired legs
  • Leg muscle cramps that make the foot turn outward when walking.
  • One or both of your feet are flat.
  • Having a slight limp
  • Feet and ankles that are stiff


A tarsal alliance is hard to spot until the bones of a child grow up. It is sometimes not found out until a person is an adult. Diagnosis involves finding out how long the symptoms have been going on and how they have changed, as well as a full check of the foot and ankle. The results of this study will depend on how bad the alliance is and where it is.

The surgeon will look at the foot and also order X-rays. To fully understand the situation, more advanced diagnostic tests may also be needed.

Non-surgical Treatment

The goal of non-surgical treatment for the tarsal coalition is to ease the symptoms and limit movement at the affected joint. Depending on how bad the situation is and how well it is treated, one or more of the following choices may be used:

  • Oral medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may help relieve pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy. Massage, movements to increase range of motion, and ultrasound therapy are all types of physical therapy.
  • Steroid injections. When cortisone is injected into the damaged joint, the pain and swelling go away. Sometimes you need more than one shot.
  • Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices can help take the weight off of a joint, stop the joint from moving too much, and relieve pain.
  • Immobilization. Sometimes, the foot is kept from moving so that the hurt area can rest. The foot is put in a cast or cast boot, and crutches are used so that the foot doesn’t have to bear weight.
  • Injection of an anesthetic agent. An anesthetic can be injected into the leg to stop spasms, and this is often done before the leg is put in a cast.

When is Surgery Needed?

If non-surgical treatments don’t help enough to relieve the patient’s complaints, surgery may be a choice. Based on the patient’s age, health, arthritis changes, and amount of exercise, the foot and ankle expert will decide which surgery is best.

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