Excessive Running Can Lead to Compartment Syndrome – Know the Symptoms!

Cross-country running is an exciting sport that unfortunately can be associated with overuse type injuries.  Compartment syndrome, a common cause of shin pain, is a condition resulting from overuse. The pain appears in the front or on the sides of the lower leg anywhere between the knee and ankle regions. This condition is essentially brought on by an increased amount of pressure within the small spaces of muscle tissue.  In addition to intense pain that typically increases proportionally with activity, individuals may experience a feeling of tightness and some noticeable swelling and redness in the region.  In advanced stages, the increase in pressures inhibit normal blood flow, circulation, and nerve messages to function properly, leading to tingling and/or numbness type feelings in the foot.

Compartment syndrome, like all other overuse type injuries that runners may experience, can result in many ways, not just from overuse or excessive amounts of running.  Some of the other contributing factors include unforgiving surfaces, a sudden significant increase in mileage, poor running biomechanics, and improper or worn out footwear. At younger ages, female runners tend to experience compartmental-like symptoms more commonly than their male counterparts. Several studies have shown that girls have a greater injury rate than boys.

In some cases, extended periods of rest from the activity can reduce the pressures in the compartment.  However, for a long distance runner, this is a difficult concept to comprehend.  Total rest interferes with normal training habits.  Modifications of activity to non-weight bearing type movements such as swimming are sometimes toler
Special types of pressure gauges are used to measure the amount of pressure in a compartment.  Guidelines exist to assist in determining the course of action.  In the worse-case scenario with pressures within a compartment elevated to high, surgery to decompress the area is indicated.able.  However, even minimal activity that requires lower leg muscle contractions can lead to increased pressures and a recurrence of the condition.  In addition to activity alterations, your physician may prescribed medications to assist with pain and swelling reduction, and you may spends increased amounts of time with your leg elevated above the heart.

If you run long distances and you ever feel symptoms in your shin like those that have been described here in this article, be sure to see your physician or credentialed healthcare provider immediately to determine if you have compartment syndrome.

 

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