Share this page

Health Library

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)

Pronounced: com-PART-ment SIN-drome

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:
Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Surgery

Surgery, called fasciotomy, is the main treatment for CCS. This is done to open the compartment and relieve pressure. A long cut will be made into the fascia to open the tissue and relieve pressure.

It can take up to 3 months to recover. After surgery, you will need physical therapy.

Nonsurgical Approaches

If you are only had CCS for a short time or you decide not to have surgery, your doctor may recommend that you:

  • Stop the activity that is causing CCS and rest
  • Change your training routine
  • Do physical therapy
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants
  • Custom made orthotics
Prevention

To help reduce your chance of CCS:

  • Avoid overexercising
  • Change your training routine
  • Avoid anabolic steroids and creatine

RESOURCES:

National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
http://www.niams.nih.gov

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

Canadian Physiotherapy Association
http://www.physiotherapy.ca

References:

Chronic compartment syndrome. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/chroniccompartment.html. Accessed January 31, 2013.

Compartment syndrome. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/chroniccompartment.html. Updated October 2009. Accessed January 31, 2013.

Compartment syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 20, 2013. Accessed November 25, 2013.

Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. 28th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005; 700;1894-1895.

Tucker AK. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome of the leg. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2010;3(1-4):32-37.



Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Baptist Flame

Baptist Health Systems

Find A Doctor

Services

Locations

Baptist Medical Clinic

Patients & Visitors

Learn

Contact Us

Physician Tools

Careers at Baptist

Employee Links

Online Services

At Baptist Health Systems

At Baptist Medical Center

close ×