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)

Definition

Chronic compartment syndrome (CCS) occurs when pressure builds up within the body’s muscle compartments. Compartments are made of sheets of connective tissue called fascia. These sheets are under the skin of the arms and legs. They wrap around groups of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. When pressure builds up in the compartments, it disrupts or blocks blood flow to the muscles and nerves.Unlike acute compartment syndrome, CCS is not an emergency. However, you should see your doctor to get treatment.
Compartment Syndrome in Lower Leg
Compartment Syndrome
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

CCS is most commonly caused by intense exercise.

Risk Factors

CCS usually occurs in people less than 30 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of CCS include:
  • Participating in endurance sports
  • Participate in sports that involve running or jumping
  • Anabolic steroid and creatine use
  • Eccentric exercise
  • Poor biomechanics in runners

Symptoms

CSS can affect the lower leg. However, it can also affect the arms, hands, feet, and buttocks. Symptoms may include:
  • Severe pain during exercise that typically goes away an hour after stopping
  • Pain on both sides of the body, such as in both legs
  • Fullness or tightness in the muscle
  • Tender, aching muscles
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness, tingling
  • In severe cases, foot drop—a foot slaps hard on the ground when running

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
  • Slit catheter or tonometer can measure compartment pressure.
  • Range-of-motion stretches can assess the damage.
  • Imaging tests to evaluate bodily structures may include:

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