Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is one of the most common causes of pain, numbness, and foot drop, most often seen in runners. People feel pain or aching in a specific area, known as the compartment, in their leg. The repetitive impact from running activity is what causes this condition. People will often feel pain as they begin exercise, which worsens with more activity. The pain will usually stop or subside after the person stops exercise.
When a person exercises, their muscles expand. The pain is caused when the fascia, or tissue around the muscle, does not expand with the muscle, causing pressure in that area.
Symptoms of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome
Symptoms are often common in both legs. Runners experience localized aching or cramping, typically in the lower leg. They may also feel tightness, weakness, swelling, numbness or foot drop. It can sometimes also be mistaken for shin splints.
Chronic compartment syndrome typically occurs in runners who are under 30, although it can occur in people of any age. It is also seen among athletes involved in high intensity exercise or in the presence of overtraining.
Patients should undergo a comprehensive evaluation to rule out the potential cause of the leg pain, including shin splints and stress fractures. At Point Performance, chronic exertional compartment syndrome can be treated with the assistance of ultrasound. In this method, we release the fascia with an instrument while avoiding nerves and arteries. This is an alternative option for those who tried conservative treatments that did not work, and avoids having a large incision in the leg.
If you’re a runner who is experiencing pain symptoms similar to compartment syndrome, please call us for an appointment.