Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome Surgery

Understanding chronic exertional compartment syndrome surgery

We would like to think that regular exercise is one of the best things for our bodies, alongside a healthy diet. And in most cases this is true - exercise can not only burn excess calories, but also build up muscle, fend off disease, and have us feeling our best. But too much of a good thing is always a danger, as any athlete who has experienced chronic exertional compartment syndrome can tell you.

After overexerting themselves, some athletes experience chronic pain in legs or arms. And while a bit of soreness is to be expected after a successful workout, the aches associated with this condition go above and beyond. In some cases, it can pose a risk that chronic exertional compartment syndrome surgery becomes necessary. This can leave dedicated athletes out of their game for weeks, months, or potentially for the long-term.

To stay protected, learn everything you can about this chronic exertional compartment syndrome surgery, and then review some pertinent health and safety tips that can keep you playing harder, longer.

What to know about chronic exertional compartment syndrome

The causes of chronic exertional compartment syndrome are not completely understood, but it mostly affects athletes who engage in repetitive limb activity for long periods of time, such as running. It comes from increased pressure in the limb through this repeated use. During use muscles expand with blood, and with extreme use the muscles carry the risk of over expanding and causing a few important complications.

The expanded muscles can cut off their own blood supply, leaving them hungry for fuel to keep them going. In other cases, the connective tissue around the muscles can become strained, as it is no longer able to contain their expanding contents. Both of these effects can lead to sore, weakened muscles which will make it harder for the athlete to do their job on the court or field.

Symptoms chronic exertional compartment syndrome

If you are experiencing unusual numbness, soreness, or weakness, do not try and work through the pain, no matter what your trainer tells you. Doing so can exacerbate the short and long term effects of chronic exertional compartment syndrome and do much more harm than good. To gain a stronger insight into whether or not you are facing this condition, as opposed to run-of-the-mill exhaustion, look carefully for symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Burning or cramping in the limbs, most commonly in the lower leg
  • Tightness in the limb
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation
  • Extensive bulging or swelling, as the result of a hernia

The pain associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome follows a particular pattern. It begins soon after you begin exercising the effected limb and progressively worsens as you continue. After ceasing the activity, the pain disappears after 10 to 20 minutes. Without treatment, the recovery time will lengthen, making it difficult to exercise the limb at all.

Treatment and prevention

Self-treatment is a great place to start once you begin experiencing the symptoms of chronic exertional compartment syndrome. Focusing on low impact activities, rather than your workout routine can be a good alternative that can still keep you active while also giving your body a chance to heal. Elliptical trainers are a good option for runners, and swimming provides a full-body workout that won't do a number on your body. Specialty orthotic inserts are made for runners, and if you do not already have a pair then now would be a good time to try them out. Finally, applying ice to the area after exercise is a must, and will drastically improve the condition over time.

After the condition has become unmanageable for self-treatment, turning to professional medical attention is the way to go. Surgery is often the most effective option. This is done by cutting the inelastic tissue that encases your muscles, allowing them to expand more freely during exercise. This surgery can relieve the painful pressure, however it does come with its own risks. It has the potential to leave permanent nerve damage, infection, numbness or scarring. Talking extensively with your doctor is the best way to gain insight into all of the possible risks, and choose the best course of action for you.

Last Reviewed:
September 08, 2017
Last Updated:
October 04, 2017
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