To fully understand Compartment Syndrome we first must look at a little anatomy. Don't worry nothing too technical!
The muscles, tendons, arteries, nerves and veins of the lower leg are actually separated into four compartments. Each compartment is encased within an inelastic membrane like tissue. This lack of ability to stretch means that the tissue cannot increase in size and therefore the compartments cannot increase in size. So if there is a large and accelerated increase in muscle size within a compartment then the muscle growth has nowhere to go and just gets squashed in the compartments. In fact the muscle usually ends up squashing other structures such as arteries and nerves, and putting pressure on them. This pressure restricts circulation and can also affect nerves. This reduction in circulation can then initiate an inflammatory response which triggers a flow of fluid into the tissues, creating further pressure in the compartment.
- Pain and swelling on the lower leg
- Increased pain and discomfort with activity
- Painful to touch affected compartment
- Reduced ROM
- Numbness and tingling in lower extremity
What to do
- Initial treatment will include reducing/ stopping activities that have perhaps given rise to symptoms.
- Seeking medical advice to rule out differential diagnosis such as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)