Chronic exertional compartment syndrome: diagnosis and management

Bull Hosp Jt Dis. 2005;62(3-4):77-84.


During exercise, muscular expansion and swelling occur. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome represents abnormally increased compartment pressures and pain in the involved extremity secondary to a noncompliant musculofascial compartment. Most commonly, it occurs in the lower leg, but has been reported in the thigh, foot, upper extremity, and erector spinae musculature. The diagnosis is obtained through a careful history and physical exam, reproduction of symptoms with exertion, and pre- and post-exercise muscle tissue compartment pressure recordings. It has been postulated that increased compartment pressures lead to transient ischemia and pain in the involved extremity. However; this is not universally accepted. Other than complete cessation of causative activities, nonoperative management of CECS is usually unsuccessful. Surgical release of the involved compartments is recommended for patients who wish to continue to exercise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Compartment Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Compartment Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Compartment Syndromes / surgery*
  • Compartment Syndromes / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Leg / anatomy & histology
  • Massage