What is Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome?

Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome is a chronic condition involving severe gradual build up of pain in the lower extremity, most commonly in people that perform endurance activities such as long distance running or hiking or ultramarathoning. This presents as a gradual build up of pain in the lower extremity with activity that usually resolves or goes away with rest.

People with this condition often go misdiagnosed as having shin splints as the most common compartment is the anterior compartment that’s affected, that’s right next to the shin. People that are suspected of having this condition should have further evaluation with imaging such as an MRI to rule out stress fractures, but may also want to consider getting compartment pressure testing before and after exercise.

That procedure is done in clinic, where a large needle is inserted into each of the four quadrants before exercise to measure the baseline pressure and then after exercise to measure if the pressure increases with activity. If the pressure in a compartment exceeds a certain standard or threshold, then an individual may be eligible to meet with a surgeon to have that compartment released to provide more room for the muscle to swell with activity to avoid developing that chronic compartment syndrome.


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