Compartment syndrome is a painful condition where excessive pressure builds up in the muscles reducing the blood flow preventing nutrition and oxygen from reaching the nerve and muscle cells. The condition can either be acute or chronic. Acute compartment syndrome is commonly caused by severe injury and is a medical emergency. If left untreated can lead to muscle damage. Chronic compartment syndrome is commonly caused by excessive physical activity and is not usually a medical emergency.
Some causes of acute compartment syndrome include;
- wearing a tight cast or tight bandage
- crushing injury to the leg
- a fracture or a badly bruised muscle
Some causes of Chronic (exertional) compartment syndrome include;
- pain and swelling caused by exercise
- participating in activities such as running, biking or swimming with repetitive motions
Symptoms of acute compartment syndrome;
- excruciating pain that increases with activity and subsides with rest
- tightness in muscle
- numbness or paralysis
Symptoms of chronic (exertional) compartment syndrome
- numbness and difficulty moving the foot
- pain or cramping during exercise which subsides with rest
- visible muscle bulging
Acute Compartment Syndrome is a medical emergency requiring surgery.
Treatment modalities for Chronic Compartment Syndrome include;
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and inflammation
- Orthotic and physical therapy to correct any underlying problems.
- It is important that review any activity modifications to reduce symptoms including altering the running or playing surface