Chronic Compartment Syndrome
(Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome; Compartment Syndrome, Chronic; Compartment Syndrome, Exercise-induced; Compartment Syndrome, Recurrent; Exercise-induced Compartment Syndrome; Recurrent Compartment Syndrome; Exercise Myopathy)
Pronounced: com-PART-ment SIN-drome
by Mary Cresse
Chronic compartment syndrome (CCS) occurs when pressure builds up within the body’s muscle compartments. Compartments are made of sheets of connective tissue called fascia. These sheets are under the skin of the arms and legs. They wrap around groups of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. When pressure builds up in the compartments, it disrupts or blocks blood flow to the muscles.
Unlike acute compartment syndrome, CCS is not an emergency. But you should see your doctor to get treatment.
Participating in endurance sports increases your chance of getting CSS. You are at greater risk if you participate in sports that involve running or jumping.
CSS can affect the lower leg. But, it can also affect the arms, hands, feet, and buttocks. If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to CCS. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Surgery, called fasciotomy, is the main treatment for CCS. This is done to open the compartment and relieve pressure. A long slice will be made into the fascia to open the tissue and relieve pressure. It takes about three months to recover. You will have to do physical therapy.
If you decide not to have surgery, your doctor may recommend that you:
To help reduce your chance of getting CCS, take the following steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Physical Therapy Canada
Chronic compartment syndrome. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/chroniccompartment.html . Accessed January 31, 2013.
Compartment syndrome. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00204 . Updated October 2009. Accessed January 31, 2013.
Compartment syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated May 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013.
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary . 28th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005; 700;1894-1895.
Last reviewed September 2012 by John C. Keel, MD