Overview on compartment syndrome

Compartment syndrome arises if there is excess buildup of pressure inside the muscles. This can impair the muscles and nerves, resulting to poor blood flow.

What are the causes?


The acute form of compartment syndrome generally results to immediate pain and swelling in the area. The usual causes include the following:

  • Fractures
  • Significant trauma such as vehicular accidents

    The chronic form is brought about by repetitive movements and exercise.

  • Steroid use
  • Casting or bandaging that is too tight
  • Crushing injuries
  • Severely bruised muscle


The chronic form is brought about by repetitive movements and exercise. The front region of the lower leg is the usual site for the pain and swelling.

What are the indications?


  • Increased pain than what is expected from an injury
  • Intense pain if the muscle is stretched
  • Burning or tingling sensation in the skin
  • Sensation of fullness or tightness in the muscle
  • Numbness or paralysis


  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tightness when the muscle is palpated
  • Evident bulging of the muscle

Management of compartment syndrome


The acute form of compartment syndrome is considered as a medical emergency. In most cases, surgery is needed specifically fasciotomy where an incision is made into the skin and fascia that covers the affected compartment.

Once the swelling settles, the incision is repaired. Oftentimes, the incision could not be sealed right away, thus a skin graft might be needed.


The symptoms might settle once the activity that triggered it stops. Low-impact activities and cross-training are usually recommended.

In some cases, the symptoms become worse during certain activities, thus changing surfaces can also help lower the pain. Orthotics, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications can also be used.

If these measures are not effective, surgery might be suggested. A procedure the same as fasciotomy can be done but the incision is shorter.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on compartment syndrome is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and how it is managed, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.