Chronic Compartment Syndrome
(Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome; Compartment Syndrome, Chronic; Compartment Syndrome, Exercise-induced; Compartment Syndrome, Recurrent; Exercise-induced Compartment Syndrome; Recurrent Compartment Syndrome; Exercise Myopathy)
Chronic compartment syndrome (CCS) is a buildup of pressure in an enclosed bundle (compartment) of muscles. It can block blood flow to the muscles and nerves.
CCS is not an emergency. However, early treatment can improve outcomes.
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Intense exercise is the most common cause.
This problem is more common in people who are less than 30 years of age. It is also more common in people who do activities with repetitive motions, such as running, biking, or swimming,.
Problems often affect the lower leg. A person may have pain or cramping during activity. They may also feel better after stopping activity. Other problems may be:
- A muscle that feels tight or full
- Muscles that bulge
- Problems moving the area
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests will be done.
Images may be taken. This can be done with x-rays.
The pressure inside the compartment will be measured. This can be done with:
- Slit catheter
- Near-infrared spectroscopy
The goal of treatment is to ease pressure. Activities will need to be stopped to allow the area to heal. Treatment choices are:
- Supportive care, such as wearing shoe inserts
- Medicines to ease pain and swelling
- Physical therapy to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion
People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery to ease pressure. This is done with a fasciotomy. This surgery makes a cut in the tissue to ease swelling and pressure in the compartment.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by slowly increase the intensity and duration of exercise.
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
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Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 2/16/2021