Chronic, or exertional, compartment syndrome occurs when the muscles of your legs experience dangerous levels of inflammation after use. Although this condition is more common in athletes, it can affect anyone, especially those who have an established exercise regimen. Keeping the condition at bay can prevent long-term damage to your muscles.
Learn Your Triggers
When you experience compartment syndrome, there may be subtle differences in the type of exercise you are performing or the environment that triggers the problem. For example, you may find exercising on a grassy field is less impactful on your legs than exercising on a hard surface. To help manage compartment syndrome, take quick notes about the type of exercises you do, where you exercise, and if you experience pain or inflammation. This will help you determine if there are specific factors that contribute to compartment syndrome. If you can pinpoint what triggers problems, you can do a better job at reducing future episodes by modifying your workouts or the environment.
Use The Right Gear
Take advantage of any shoes, orthotics, and leg supports available, especially when they are made for your specific sport or type of exercise. The additional support will help alleviate pressure on your legs. Orthotics are an excellent investment because minor alignment problems and pressure points in your feet can contribute to or exacerbate inflammation. By cushioning your feet and increasing shock absorption, you minimize the amount of irritation in your leg muscles. Even when you are not actively participating in a sport or exercise, you should take measures to reduce impact on your legs. Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes with plenty of foot support throughout the day.
Using the right gear is not only about what you wear, but also about creating a better environment to perform activities or do other tasks. Whenever possible, try adding an exercise mat or other foam surface to the floor beneath your feet if you exercise indoors. You can even take a large yoga mat outdoors to reduce the impact of certain exercises, such as jumping squats and other high-impact exercises. Add cushion to other surfaces at work or inside your home whenever possible if you will stand for long periods.
Take Frequent Breaks
If you notice the signs of compartment syndrome occur after doing specific exercises or when exercising for long periods, try to consistently take breaks. During your breaks, prop your legs up on a table or chair to help alleviate pressure and reduce any swelling that may occur. You may also want to apply ice or a washcloth soaked in cool water to your legs to help reduce inflammation. Even small breaks between periods of intense activity may be enough to prevent a flare-up of compartment syndrome.
Consider Medical Treatments
Sometimes modifications are not enough or you may experience significant pain that does not resolve on its own, even with rest. When this occurs, it is time to consider surgical intervention to possibly remedy the problem. Although retail and prescription anti-inflammatory medications may have temporary benefits, it is best to consider a surgical approach for long-term relief. During surgery for compartment syndrome, the fascia is opened to give your muscles more room to expand without impingement. The fascia is a thin membrane surrounding your muscles that encases them within the leg.
Since compartment syndrome can cause long-term damage to the muscles and nerves in the leg, choosing a surgical route is often a better option if you play a sport or exercise frequently. After your recovery, you should be able to return to normal activities without unnecessary concerns about pain or damage from compartment syndrome.
Chronic compartment syndrome can cause debilitating pain and derail the plans of highly active people. When conservative measures are not effective, trying a surgical approach will give you the best chance at returning to your normal activities.
For more information, contact a clinic such as Omaha Orthopedic Clinic & Sports Medicine PC.