Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is a condition many runners are all too familiar with. Those suffering from the syndrome experience pain in their lower leg(s). While it is common to hear the name of this condition shortened to “compartment syndrome,” the first two words are actually important in understanding what you may be dealing with.
“Chronic” means that the condition is ongoing. “Exertional” means it is caused by exercise. So, the syndrome can derail your active lifestyle if it is not appropriately addressed.
What Causes Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome?
We have noted that runners are familiar with compartment syndrome. That’s because it is most often seen in runners who lead with their heels when they run. These heel-strike landings cause a significant increase in pressure in the lower leg, which in turn causes ongoing pain in that location.
How Can Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome Be Treated?
The first thing to try if you are dealing with compartment syndrome is a period of rest from running or other activities related to the pain. Runners may also try to adjust their running style so that they land on their forefoot rather than their heel with each stride. This change can be supported by some kinds of footwear.
In many cases, surgery is the best option for ongoing relief from compartment syndrome. The surgical approach is known as fasciotomy, which is a procedure that creates slits in the compartments of the lower leg to allow room for them to expand during exercise.
A surgeon performing a fasciotomy must take care not to damage—or in some cases must repair existing damage—to the saphenous nerve. A skilled peripheral nerve surgeon can ensure successful care of the nerves that can be impacted by a fasciotomy.
An alternative to a fasciotomy is nerve release surgery—which frees up nerves that are compressed by the muscles that have expanded as a result of compartment syndrome. This procedure can relieve the symptoms of compartment syndrome and get a runner back on the track.
Get the Care You Need for Compartment Syndrome
Dr. Eric H. Williams has the expertise, experience, and compassion to provide exceptional care. If you suspect you are suffering from compartment syndrome, it is time to make an appointment to see how Dr. Williams can help you find relief and return to your regular activities.