Exertional Compartment Syndrome

Exertional compartment syndrome is a common cause of lower leg pain in the athlete. It most commonly affects the front and lateral side (towards the pinky toe) of the lower leg. Patients typically report progressively worsening pain and tightness of the leg with activity, frequently requiring stopping the offending activity. Numbness, tingling or loss of muscle function may occur.

The diagnosis is made by measuring the pressure in the four compartments of the lower leg both at rest and after exertion. If pressure exceeds a certain threshold, the patient has the diagnosis of CECS. Treatment options include stopping the activity that causes pain or undergoing a surgical procedure called a fasciotomy, which keeps the pressure from building up in the compartments and allowing the patient to return to activity without symptoms.

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