Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in the lower leg. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.
There are tissues called fascia that are wrapped around groups of muscles which separate them from one another so we can move each of them individually. Inside each layer of fascia is a space known as a compartment. Inside this compartment includes muscle tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. Fascia surrounds these structures and allows them to work properly.
Fascia has trouble expanding. If there is swelling it will increase the pressure in that area, pressing muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. This pressure if it is high enough, blocks blood flow to the area. If not treated, the tissues can become permanently injured because of the lack of oxygen and blood flow. Muscles can die and the leg may actually be amputated. So treating this condition is imperative.
Swelling can occur from car accidents, crushing the muscles and tissue, fractures, or numerous soft tissues.
Life-time athletes can get compartment syndrome from the repetitiveness of their sport. It is very common in runners.
The most common areas in the body where this syndrome occurs is in the lower leg and forearm. It can also occur in any extremity in the body.
What are the symptoms?
The most common way of determining if you have compartment syndrome is severe pain that doesn’t go away when moving the affected extremity even if on pain medication! Here are some other symptoms:
- Decreased sensation
- Loss of color on the skin
- Severe pain that keeps getting worse
- Weakness in the affected area
- Severe pain when squeezing or moving the affected area
- Swollen and shiny skin
How do we manage this problem?
Surgery is sometimes performed to release the pressure. Long cuts are made to the fascia to relieve the pressure. After the surgery it is important to recondition the tissues and keep blood flowing to the area and allow for proper re-growth.
The good news is that if you have this problem and it is managed correctly, you can go back to your daily activities without a problem. It is hard work but the body can be restored