Compartment Syndrome | Foot and Ankle Pain | The Relief Institute

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome occurs when excessive pressure builds up inside an enclosed muscle space in the body, most commonly after exercising. This can also result from bleeding or swelling after an injury and can damage the structures and functions of the affected muscle. 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, your doctor may perform immediate surgery to prevent damage to the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles of the foot.

Causes

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

Symptoms include aching, burning or cramping and can be confused with shin splints.

Potential Treatments

The only option to treat acute compartment syndrome is surgery. This procedure is performed 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.

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