Compartment Syndrome

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Compartment syndrome is a condition that involves increased pressure within a muscle compartment of the lower leg. Thick layers of tissue (fascia) separate groups of muscles in the legs. Within each layer of fascia is a confined space which is known as a compartment. The compartment includes the muscle tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. The problem may lead to muscle, nerve damage and problems with circulation which ultimately can lead to the associated symptoms.

Causes: Fascia around muscle tissue does not expand. Any swelling in a compartment will lead to increased pressure in that area and cause pressure on the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. If this pressure is high enough, blood flow to the compartment will be blocked. This can lead to permanent injury to the muscle and nerves. Sports and daily activities that involve sustained periods of repetitive actions such as running or football may cause the problem and exacerbate the condition. Specific biomechanical implications may contribute to the onset of the problem.

Symptoms & Diagnosis: The most common symptom is intense pain which occurs both during and post intense physical activity. Lower limb weakness, tingling or reduced sensation in the limb(s) may develop during the sport or activity. A cramping sensation may often be described in the legs and general tightness within the calf muscles. The symptoms normally resolve with a period of rest following activity.

Management: A skilled physiotherapist will correctly diagnose the problem and provide treatment and the correct advice to help alleviate the problem. A biomechanical assessment may be indicated to investigate whether any underlying lower limb function or biomechanics may have contributed to the onset of the problem. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required to reduce the pressure within the compartments.

Please feel free to contact the G4 Clinic to speak to a member of the team for any questions that you may have.

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