Compartment syndrome of the lower leg is a condition in which pressure within the shin muscles builds up and reaches painful levels. This causes numbness and swelling with the individual experiencing difficulty in moving the foot.
The increase in pressure can lead to decreased blood flow which limits oxygen from reaching the muscle cells and nerves in the affected region.
The condition mainly develops due to swelling within a compartment, limiting the ability of the supporting soft tissues to stretch efficiently. This leads to increased pressure on the muscles and nerves in the compartment, disrupting blood flow in the process.
Acute compartment syndrome often requires immediate medical attention. It can be caused by severe injuries such as fractures, bruised muscles or crush injuries. Without proper treatment, the condition may cause irreversible damage to the muscles. If the pressure is not relieved quickly, the risk of permanent disability may increase.
Chronic compartment syndrome is typically not considered a medical emergency and may be caused by physically intense activities such as sprinting or cycling. It commonly occurs in the calf/shin, but can also happen in the hips and feet.
The risk of chronic compartment syndrome and associated problems may increase with foot postural abnormalities such as a flatfoot condition.
With a flatfoot posture, the foot arch flattens against the ground, causing an inward twist of the shin bone; this produces excessive stress on the tissues surrounding the shinbone.
When combined with repetitive movements in exercises and sports activities, this additional stress may increase the risk of compartment syndrome.
While acute compartment syndrome often requires surgery, chronic compartment syndrome, in most cases, can be treated without surgery.
During examination, the health care professional will firstly check for other conditions in the lower leg that could be affecting the shin. X-rays may be required to check for stress fractures in the shinbone. Finally, pressure testing of the compartment – performed before and after exercise – can confirm whether the patient has chronic compartment syndrome.
Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and foot insoles are often prescribed to relieve symptoms of chronic compartment syndrome and support healthy leg movements. MASS4D® insoles can be used as part of a comprehensive rehab programme.
MASS4D® insoles support the feet in their corrected posture to help reduce the excessive stress on the shinbone caused by flat feet. By helping restore healthy foot function and movement, MASS4D® reduces postural misalignment in the lower leg. This allows the muscles in the compartment to heal quickly and properly.
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Reference: Compartment Syndrome. (2009, October). Retrieved from http://www.orthoinfo.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00204
Reference: Compartment Syndrome. (2016, September). Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/compartment-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Reference: Compartment Syndrome. (2016, October). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/compartment-syndrome
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