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What is Subacute Compartment Syndrome?

Compartment Syndrome is a condition that usually effects either the lower leg or the forearm.  These areas of the body are broken up into compartments by fascia and each compartment contains muscles, nerves, and arteries. Subcute Compartment syndrome occurs when the pressure inside one of these compartments rises and causes symptoms, inadequate blood flow, or nerve compression. Compartment syndrome can be broken up into two different types: Subacute and chronic.

Subacute Compartment Syndrome:

Subacute compartment syndrome is a sudden and dramatic increase in the pressure of a compartment.  This usually results from a crushing trauma, a burn injury, prolonged over-tight bandaging, or post-surgery.  The dramatic rise in pressure causes severe pain and compression of nerves and arteries.  Subacute compartment syndrome is life-threatening emergency and needs to be corrected by surgically puncturing the fascia that borders the compartment.


Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS):

CECS is a chronic, non-emergency type of compartment syndrome.  It occurs when exercise increases the pressure inside a compartment and causes symptoms.  Symptoms of CECS include:

-aching, burning, or cramping in the affected limb

-numbness or tingling

-weakness of the affected limb

-swelling in the affected limb

CECS usually follows this pattern:

-begins soon after (within 30 minutes) of starting exercise

-progressively worsens if you continue

-stops within 30 minutes of stopping exercise

CECS often goes away if an athlete stops their aggravating activity but usually comes back no matter how long of a break an athlete takes.  Some cases of CECS will require a surgery called a fasciotomy where a small hole is cut in the fascia to relieve pressure.  However, many cases are relieved by conservative measures such as deep tissue massage, IASTM, and active release.  It is important to be evaluated if you are experiencing these symptoms to rule out other causes of pain such as medial tibial stress syndrome or radiating pain from the low back.  If you have questions about CECS contact us and speak with one of our sports chiropractic physicians.  



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