Compartment syndrome occurs when excessive pressure builds up inside an enclosed muscle space in the body. Compartment syndrome usually results from exercising, bleeding or swelling after an injury. Exercise-induced compartment syndrome is a chronic condition and is usually not a medical emergency.
The dangerously high pressure in compartment syndrome impedes the flow of blood to and from the affected tissues. When compartment syndrome occurs following an injury, we may perform immediate surgery to prevent damage to the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles of the foot.
Acute compartment syndrome is the most common type of compartment syndrome. In most cases, it is caused by a broken leg or arm. Acute compartment syndrome develops rapidly over hours or days. Acute compartment syndrome can also occur after injuries without bone fracture.
Compartment syndrome can develop from the fracture itself, due to pressure from bleeding and edema. Or compartment syndrome may occur later, as a result of treatment for the fracture (such as surgery or casting).
Symptoms include aching, burning or cramping and can be confused with shin splints.
The only option to treat acute compartment syndrome is surgery. We perform this procedure by cutting open the skin and the fascia to relieve the pressure.
Options to treat chronic compartment syndrome include physiotherapy, shoe inserts, and anti-inflammatory medications. You may also be advised to avoid the activity causing the problem.
You may also need physiotherapy during the recovery process. This may help to restore your full range of motion and muscle strength.