There are two types of compartment syndrome. Acute compartment syndrome is typically caused by a direct traumatic injury and requires immediate surgery. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition that often responds well to nonsurgical podiatric care. Here’s what you should know about this disorder, including how the highly skilled specialists with Massapequa Podiatry Associates, Dr. Corey Fox and Dr. Justin LoBello, help patients get back on their feet.
Understanding the Muscle Compartments of the Lower Leg
The muscles that control that foot and ankle are located in four separate sections—or compartments—in the lower leg. Here’s a brief summary of each section and what it does.
- Anterior compartment. Located on the front of the lower leg, the anterior compartment contains the muscles responsible for lifting the foot and toes.
- Lateral compartment. Positioned on the outside of the lower leg, the muscles in the lateral compartment allow you to lift the outer edge of the foot.
- Deep posterior compartment. One of two muscle compartments at the back of the lower leg, the deep posterior compartment includes muscles that allow you to lift up the inner edge of the foot at the arch.
- Superficial posterior compartment. Also on the back of the lower leg, this compartment contains the large, defined calf muscles at the back of the leg that allow you to push off when running or jumping.
Symptoms: Acute Versus Chronic Compartment Syndrome
Acute compartment syndrome is a serious medical problem that develops following an injury and requires a visit to the emergency room for prompt surgical treatment. Symptoms include intense pain when stretching the muscles in the affected compartment, tingling or burning sensations in the skin, muscles that feel full or tight, and numbness or paralysis.
Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is an overuse injury that can be painful but isn’t usually considered a medical emergency. Although anyone can develop the condition, it is most common among runners and other athletes who participate in activities that require a lot of repetitive movements. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome can occur during exercise, when increased blood flow to the muscles causes them to expand in volume inside the muscle compartment. The worsening pressure in the compartment can cause symptoms such as pain or cramping, numbness, muscle bulges, and difficulty moving the affected foot. Because the symptoms can be similar, chronic exertional compartment syndrome is often mistaken for shin splints. However, our knowledgeable and experienced New York podiatrists can tell the difference and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Treating Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome
At Massapequa Podiatry Associates, we offer a wide range of treatments for chronic compartment syndrome. Depending on your symptoms and the compartments involved, we may recommend avoiding the activity that triggered your pain, cross-training with low-impact activities, switching the surface you run on, or modifying how you run. Treatment options include physical therapy; orthotics, inserts, or insoles; anti-inflammatory medications; and advanced interventions such as laser or shockwave therapies. When conservative methods fail, patients may benefit from surgery. The procedure involves making an incision in the fascia (the tough membrane that covers the muscle compartments), which provides more room for swelling muscles.
Schedule an Appointment With Our NY Podiatrists
Our Long Island podiatrists accurately address chronic exertional compartment syndrome, providing the diagnoses and treatments patients need to heal and return to the activities they enjoy. Complete our online contact form, or call Massapequa Podiatry Associates at 516-541-9000 to schedule an appointment for a thorough evaluation with one of our experienced foot and ankle specialists.