When it comes to compartment syndrome, it typically occurs once the muscles are overly inflamed and too big for the surrounding sheath and can be acute or chronic. The lateral compartment of the inferior leg is comprised of the peroneus brevis and peroneous longus muscles, either of which can be the cause of compartment syndrome. It is important to note that compartment syndrome occurs abruptly and a chronic case usually comes on gradually over time.
Acute compartment syndrome
An acute compartment syndrome can develop due to an injury or impact which causes swelling and bleeding inside the muscle sheath. The excess fluid will cause high pressure inside the muscle sheath. The symptoms include pain at the rear of the leg especially when running or walking along with tenderness or swelling in the muscle on the exterior of the calf.
The individual should rest until the pain fully subsides. It is recommended to work the upper body or swim since these can be done without triggering pain. Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Remember that the ice pack should not be applied directly on the skin but covered in a damp tea towel first. In addition, using a compression support can also minimize the swelling while supporting the muscle at the same time. To learn to recognize and manage the symptoms of this condition and other muscle conditions, click here.
When to consult a doctor
The doctor will perform compartment pressure tests and confirm a diagnosis. In most cases, ultrasound is applied or other electrotherapy techniques to reduce the swelling. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are prescribed to reduce the inflammation and pain. In severe cases, a surgeon will operate surgically to decompress the compartment.
Chronic compartment syndrome
Compartment syndrome typically occurs among runners and occurs since the muscle is too big for the sheath that surrounds it. The symptoms typically include pain that gradually manifests during a run and becomes worse until it is impossible to continue. After a period of rest, the pain vanishes only to return once the individual tries to run again.
The possible causes include strenuous training but those who have laxity in the ankle ligaments face a higher risk. Biomechanical issues of the foot such as over pronation or over supination can contribute to the load on the muscle, thus increasing the risk for chronic compartment syndrome.
Always bear in mind that rest is vital until the pain is gone. A specialist must be consulted to confirm the problem since the injury might be a chronic muscle strain that was not able to heal properly. If a compartment syndrome is diagnosed, an extended period of rest along with the correction of foot biomechanics is required to allow the over developed muscles to atrophy and allow the sheath to accommodate it.
When to consult a doctor
The doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. In most cases, sports massage techniques are performed to stretch out the muscle sheath. Take note that cross friction massage can be applied to the sheath to stretch it and provide more room for the muscles inside to function. As for severe or persistent cases, the ideal solution is to undergo surgery to release the sheath and enable the muscle to expand naturally.