ABC Medical Center > Chronic exertional compartment syndrome

What is Chronic exertional compartment syndrome?

21:56 - 4 May , 2021


It is an intense muscle or nerve pain caused by physical activity that can sometimes produce disabling processes in the upper and lower extremities muscles, being more common in young athletes who perform high-impact sports and excessive physical effort.

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is due to increased pressure in a muscle compartment: if the pressure is too high, blood flow will be impeded, which can cause permanent injury to the muscles and nerves.

The most common causes are:

  • Bone fractures.
  • Muscle with various bruises.
  • Severe sprain.
  • Trauma.

Tight bandage, cast, or tourniquet that prevents blood circulation.

Compartment syndrome usually occurs most regularly in the lower leg and forearm, although it can also occur in the hands, thighs, feet, and upper arm.

Signs and symptoms Chronic exertional compartment syndrome

  • Burning.
  • Cramps.
  • Intense pain that does not stop with painkillers.
  • Lack of strength in the affected limb.
  • Numbness or tingling of the affected limb.
  • Inflammation.
  • Pale skin.

The greatest risk of chronic exertional compartment syndrome, linked to the pain, weakness, and numbness it causes, is the lack of continuity in sports practice or activity.

Diagnosis and treatment Chronic exertional compartment syndrome

Once your doctor analyzes your symptoms and clinical history, they will perform a physical examination and request some tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as:

  • Near-infrared spectroscopy.
  • Compartment pressure measurement.
  • MRI.

Treatment focuses on preventing permanent damage, through:

  • Painkillers.
  • Rest from physical or sports activity.
  • Botulinum toxin injections.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Surgery called fasciotomy, which consists of removing the rigid tissue that covers each muscle compartment of the tissue to relieve pressure.

At the Orthopedics and Traumatology Center, we seek to improve the lives of patients restricted or immobilized by musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. We specialize in the care of the locomotor system by integrating the latest medical, biological, and technological advances in strict adherence to the highest international standards of patient care.


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  • Zenteno-Chávez B. Manejo del síndrome compartimental crónico de la pierna en atletas. Presentación de dos casos y revisión de la literatura. Acta Ortop Mex. 2018 Ene-Feb;32(1):41-43.
  • Arroyo LAP, Solano MH, Rojas MVM. Síndrome Compartimental, generalidades, consenso diagnóstico y técnica quirúrgica. Rev Clin Esc Med. 2018;8(2):11-24.

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