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Compartment Syndrome


  • Overuse injury common in running activities
  • Poor biomechanics such as pronation or supination
  • Increased activity levels
  • Pain and tightness at the front of the lower leg
  • Pain when resuming activity
  • Weakness, aching and stiffness in the area
  • Lumps or thickness in the area of pain
  • Rest
  • Physiotherapy
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Posture evaluation
  • Surgery in extreme cases

What is a Compartment Syndrome?

Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling of the muscles in the lower leg causes increased pressure in the tissues. This increased pressure appears as a result of a loss in flexibility in the tissues in which blood flow is increased in the area when excessive activities such as walking and running are undergone. Compartment syndrome is often caused by overuse, particularly in patients that partake in sports such as running and football. Individuals who have just started exercising or have increased their level of fitness are also at risk of sustaining this injury as they may lack strength and flexibility needed for their activity level. This injury has also been linked with poor biomechanics such as patients with flat feet (pronation) or a high arch (supination).

Compartment Syndrome Symptoms

Patients who suffer compartment syndrome are likely to feel pain and tightness in the front of the lower leg which gradually becomes more apparent through continued activity. Patients are likely to feel aching and stiffness and some even complain of a ‘pins and needles’ and numbness sensation. In the area of pressure it is also common for lumps to appear under the skin.

Compartment Syndrome Diagnosis

In order to diagnose compartment syndrome, a doctor or physiotherapist will give an examination of the area and a compartment pressure test can be taken to detect the muscle compartment affected. Often a doctor will carry out and X-ray or MRI scan in order to confirm the diagnosis and also to rule out any further complications.

Compartment Syndrome Treatment

In order to treat compartment syndrome, rest is crucial in order to allow the injury time to heal and to prevent any further activity which could cause damage or discomfort to the injury. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be taken in order to reduce swelling as well as relieving pain or achiness from the injury. When the injury has begun healing and you are advised by a physiotherapist or doctor, it is important for the patient to undergo a rehabilitation program such as strengthening and stretching exercises which will keep the area strong and make it easier to return to sports once the injury has fully recovered. These exercises should not be carried out if the patient feels pain in the area and the advice of a physiotherapist should always be sought in order to obtain an exercise regime suitable for the individual. Deep tissue massage is highly recommended for compartment syndrome in order to improve the condition of the muscles. If biomechanics are the cause of the issue, the patient may find it beneficial to work with a physiotherapist in order to re-evaluate the running, walking techniques in order to correct the issue. In severe cases, surgery may be required to correct this injury in order to relieve pressure from the tissue. This is carried out by making surgical cuts through the fascia and leaving the wounds open for a short period of time.