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Lateral Compartment Syndrome: Acute, Chronic- Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

The lateral compartment of the lower leg comprises of the peroneus, brevis and peroneus longus muscles. A compartment syndrome is a condition where the muscles increase in size than their surrounding sheath causing pressure and pain. This can be acute or chronic.[1]

Lateral Compartment Syndrome

Acute Compartment Syndrome[2]

The causes of an acute compartment syndrome are direct force or trauma, which causes bleeding and swelling inside the muscle sheath. The additional fluid produced puts extra pressure within the muscle sheath.

Symptoms of Acute Compartment Syndrome[3]

  • Pain upon walking or running.
  • Swelling may be present.
  • Tenderness may be present.

Treatment of Acute Compartment Syndrome[4]

  • Rest should be taken till the pain subsides.
  • The upper body can be exercised though.
  • Swimming can also be done if it does not cause any pain.
  • Ice or cold therapy should be applied for 20 minutes, every two hours.
  • A sports injury professional should be consulted.
  • Ultrasound therapy helps in reducing the swelling.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen help in reducing pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery may be required where the compartment is surgically decompressed.

Chronic Compartment Syndrome[5]

Chronic compartment syndrome commonly affects those individuals who are involved in high impact sports such as runners. The reason is same, because the size of the muscle has increased rapidly when compared to the sheath surrounding it. The cause can be lack of proper technique when training. Excessive training which is done too soon. Laxity of the ankle ligaments also makes a person more prone to this type of injury.

Symptoms of Chronic Compartment Syndrome

  • Pain that starts gradually during running. It gets worse until the athlete could no longer continue to run.
  • The pain subsides with rest. However, when the athlete starts to run again, the pain comes back.

Treatment of Chronic Compartment Syndrome

  • Rest until the pain decreases.
  • A specialist can confirm the diagnosis.
  • Heat application can be done and a heat retainer can be used.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen help in pain and swelling.
  • Sports massage techniques can be done to stretch the muscle sheath.
  • Surgery may be required if all the above measures fail.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 20, 2020

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