Forefoot Running Improves Pain and Disability Associated With Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome

Am J Sports Med. 2012 May;40(5):1060-7. doi: 10.1177/0363546512439182. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

Abstract

Background: Anterior compartment pressures of the leg as well as kinematic and kinetic measures are significantly influenced by running technique. It is unknown whether adopting a forefoot strike technique will decrease the pain and disability associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) in hindfoot strike runners.

Hypothesis: For people who have CECS, adopting a forefoot strike running technique will lead to decreased pain and disability associated with this condition.

Study design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods: Ten patients with CECS indicated for surgical release were prospectively enrolled. Resting and postrunning compartment pressures, kinematic and kinetic measurements, and self-report questionnaires were taken for all patients at baseline and after 6 weeks of a forefoot strike running intervention. Run distance and reported pain levels were recorded. A 15-point global rating of change (GROC) scale was used to measure perceived change after the intervention.

Results: After 6 weeks of forefoot run training, mean postrun anterior compartment pressures significantly decreased from 78.4 ± 32.0 mm Hg to 38.4 ± 11.5 mm Hg. Vertical ground-reaction force and impulse values were significantly reduced. Running distance significantly increased from 1.4 ± 0.6 km before intervention to 4.8 ± 0.5 km 6 weeks after intervention, while reported pain while running significantly decreased. The Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation (SANE) significantly increased from 49.9 ± 21.4 to 90.4 ± 10.3, and the Lower Leg Outcome Survey (LLOS) significantly increased from 67.3 ± 13.7 to 91.5 ± 8.5. The GROC scores at 6 weeks after intervention were between 5 and 7 for all patients. One year after the intervention, the SANE and LLOS scores were greater than reported during the 6-week follow-up. Two-mile run times were also significantly faster than preintervention values. No patient required surgery.

Conclusion: In 10 consecutive patients with CECS, a 6-week forefoot strike running intervention led to decreased postrunning lower leg intracompartmental pressures. Pain and disability typically associated with CECS were greatly reduced for up to 1 year after intervention. Surgical intervention was avoided for all patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Compartment Syndrome / complications
  • Anterior Compartment Syndrome / therapy*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Chronic Disease
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Forefoot, Human*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Running / physiology*
  • Self Report
  • Treatment Outcome