Compartment syndrome is a rare but painful side effect of repetitive motion in the arms and legs according to Medline Plus of the National Institutes of Health. Groups of muscles in the arms and legs are divided into sections or compartments that have borders made of strong connective tissue. When there is a problem in one of these sections there is often nowhere for any swelling to go and pressure simply builds up in that area.
Compartment syndrome most commonly affects athletes that swim, run, or ride a bicycle repetitively over and over. If an injury occurs in the arms or legs that cause internal bleeding, swelling may build up quickly as connective tissue may block the blood from going anywhere according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most cases of compartment syndrome are very painful. Surgery is required to make the swelling come down and relieve the pressure. Detecting compartment syndrome is possible by taking into account where the severe pain is located, a large amount of swelling, and pain when the affected area is squeezed.
A doctor must confirm the pressure in the compartment by using a pressure meter. A needle is inserted into the muscle to see if the pressure is above 45 mm of mercury than normal. Surgery that cuts open the area is what is used to relieve the swelling and then the wound is closed a few days later during a second surgery.
The most problematic part of recovery is nerve damage. The first 12 to 24 hours are critical to having a more promising diagnosis. Even after successful surgery your movement or feeling in that area may never fully recover.
Complications can include impaired movement of the limb that was affected. In the most severe cases of compartment syndrome amputation may be the only option.
A high school football team in Oregon recently had a breakout of several cases of compartment syndrome according to WebMD. Up to 30 players were affected after doing a repetitive arm exercise that was very intense.
Doctors are looking into the possibility of steroid or muscle growth hormones even though there is no evidence linking them with compartment syndrome. Dehydration may be a factor as the team was working out in 100+ degree heat.
Many of the boys had surgery and are expected to recover. Why so many got a rare muscle condition is still under investigation.
Preventing this rare disorder is a lesson in basic exercising. Warm up and stretch before doing any strenuous exercises and cool down afterwards. If you are experiencing pain you should stop exercising immediately.
Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated are also important. You should also be careful not to overdo any exercises that repeat the same motion over and over again. Compartment syndrome is rare as far as sports and exercise injuries but it is still important to take precautions. Compartment syndrome is very serious, painful, and could have lasting side effects.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as actual medical advice. Follow your physician’s guidelines when engaging in exercise or a workout routine.
The National Institutes of Health, the Mayo Clinic, and WebMD all contributed information for this article.