Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is a condition in which increased pressure within a muscle compartment causes a decrease in blood supply to the affected muscles. The so called compartments are groups of muscles surrounded by inelastic fascia and thus any swelling of muscles leaves no room for expansion and blood supply is progressively cut-off. Compartment syndromes can be acute or chronic, acute anterior compartment syndrome can occur as a result of a muscle tear which also causes bleeding or over use injury which also causes swelling.
Symptoms may include a sharp pain in the muscle on the outside of the lower leg, usually the result of a direct blow, weakness when trying to pull the foot upwards against resistance,  swelling and tenderness over the tibialis anterior muscle pain when the foot and toes are bent downwards. The mechanism of development of the chronic compartment syndrome is thought to be, overuse which leads to local tissue swelling which leads to a tight muscle compartment this leads to a decreased blood supply due to swelling which in turn leads to more tissue swelling, a vicious cycle can become established.
The patient should rest, but try to exercise your upper body or cycle if it is not painful. Apply ice and compression for 20 minutes at a time. The patient should see a Podiatrist who can advise on rehabilitation. The Podiatrist will carry out a gait assessment and maybe even check your running style and then correct any biomechanical dysfunction with custom made orthotic devices. We often see that runners who over pronate severely tend to develop compartment type conditions, if their pronation is adequately controlled the symptoms subside.














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Page last updated 14 October, 2007