Compartment Syndrome – Is It Treatable?
Our muscles are divided into compartments by a protective layer called the fascia. Compartment syndrome is a condition where you feel pain in the muscle compartment due to a build up of pressure. As the fascia is not very flexible, any swelling in the muscles usually causes a build up of pressure in the compartment. This causes a compression to the blood vessels, impairing blood flow and causing oxygen deprivation to the muscles itself.
Two Types of Compartment Syndrome
Acute compartment syndrome is brought on by a sudden injury or impact such as a fracture or crushing injury. An acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. If you fail to address the condition in time, you risk permanent tissue damage. What usually tells you that you have compartment syndrome is an initial tightness and hotness in the skin. You will also experience much more intense pain than what your injury would usually present with. As time passes, numbness and paralysis of the affected area will replace the pain. This is a very bad sign as it shows that permanent damage has occured.
Chronic compartment syndroms is much slower in onset. It is caused by long term repetitive motions. Runners, cyclists, and swimmers are the most common population to be affected by compartment syndrome. Usually this conditions affects the lower leg. As this is a slow onset condition, it is much less dangerous than its acute version. You have more time to deal with the condition, but it may also take time to heal.
Is It Treatable?
The short answer is yes.
Unfortunately, acute compartment syndrome has no non-surgical treatment. The best course of action is getting an emergency surgery which involves a cut to the fascia in order to give room to the muscles and relieve the pressure. It is critical to stress that this procedure needs to be done as soon as possible. Failure to do so risks permanent tissue damage.
Chronic compartment syndrome is treated almost with the opposite approach. Surgery is usually not recommended and only is recommended as a last resort. Most of the time, physiotherapy is the best course of action. Our therapist will help you with a combination of myofascial release, massage, and stretching exercises. This is shown to be the most effective approach for this condition.
As usual, we hope this article has benefited you. Below is a quick stretching exercise. Check out our YouTube channel in order to find more useful exercises. Feel free to drop us a line if you have further questions.