Compartment syndrome is pain and swelling caused by swollen muscles pressing against the sides of the compartment (or sheath) that surrounds the muscles. The sheath is called the fascia.
The syndrome occurs most often:
Compartment syndrome occurs as the result of injury or overuse of the muscles of the lower leg or forearm.
These injuries can cause tissues in the area to swell. Fascia do not expand, so swelling cuts off circulation of blood to ligaments, muscles, and nerves. This affects the injured area and the area below the injury.
The compartments in the lower leg are generally most affected. This injury occurs most often in athletes who run a great deal.
The symptoms usually occur in the area of the affected compartment of the forearm, thigh, or leg. They can include:
To diagnose compartment syndrome, your healthcare provider will review your symptoms, examine you, and may do a needle test to measure the increased tissue pressure within the compartment.
To treat this condition:
If the injury is more severe, you may have tests such as an arteriogram to identify where the blood flow to the area is stopped.
Sometimes surgery is needed to release the pressure. This decreases swelling and restores blood flow to the area.
The effects last as long as the problem exists. Use of muscles and nerves, as well as blood flow, must be restored to prevent paralysis.
Do warm-up exercises before exercising. Gradually increase your exercise level for any job-related activity or exercise that requires constant use of lower arms and leg muscles.