Compartment syndrome is a painful medical condition that is characterized by increased pressure in a muscle compartment. The following article provides information on this condition.
The term ‘compartment’ refers to groups of nerves, muscles, and blood vessels in the arms and legs. The tissues are covered by fascia, which is a tough membrane of connective tissue that keeps them in place. The tough walls of fascia cannot stretch or expand. Due to this reason, problems can arise if pressure builds up within the compartment or enclosed space. This could cause nerve or blood vessels to get compressed. This might impair the blood flow in the limbs, thereby increasing the possibility of chances of nerve and muscle damage. Under such circumstances, one is diagnosed with compartment syndrome.
Symptoms and Contributing Factors
This disorder could be acute or chronic. The acute form is usually a result of a traumatic event like muscle tear, burn, injury from bite, car crash, etc. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is usually caused by exercise. Although, it could affect anyone, it is more likely to affect athletes who are involved in sports that require a lot of repetitive movements.The chronic form is, however, known to be uncommon.
In its acute form, this condition could cause the following symptoms.
- Swelling in the affected area (usually of a severe nature)
- Weakness in the limb muscles
- Intense pain
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the affected area
- Worsening pain that occurs after the affected area is stretched or worked upon
- Absence of pulse
Indicators of the chronic form may include:
- In most cases, the lower legs are affected by this ailment. There might be a cramping pain, which may be accompanied by a burning sensation.
- The affected person may feel some kind of tension or tightness in the affected limb.
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations are also common.
- Swelling or bulging may also occur.
Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency. It requires immediate surgical treatment to relieve the pressure. The method is known as fasciectomy, wherein surgeons cut open the fascia. In some cases, a part of this tissue may be removed. This treatment allows the compartment to expand in response to the increase in pressure.
The chronic form requires both conservative and surgical treatment methods for its management. The conservative options include the use of pain medications, massage, stretching and strengthening exercises, and certain changes in lifestyle. However, it has been found that these methods might not provide long-term relief to the patient. Hence, surgery is the main and the best treatment to go for.
As far as prevention is concerned, there are no specific ways to do it. All you can do is to avoid anything that might trigger the condition. For example, warming up before exercise is a healthy practice, and so is cooling down after workouts. Stay hydrated and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.