Compartment Syndrome

Compartment Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Compartment Syndrome?

In your arms and legs, there are sections of muscle that contain blood vessels, muscle tissue and parts of the nervous system. These are muscle compartments. A somewhat rigid web of interconnected tissue called fascia surrounds the muscle compartments. These areas do not expand quickly to accommodate any changes in pressure. (x)

When these muscles take on damage, usually due to bone fractures or even blunt trauma, they swell or bleed, and pressure starts to build up in the compartments. The pressure causes further injury to the muscle tissue, nerves and vessels, resulting in a rather painful condition called compartment syndrome. (x

As an emergency treatment, compartment syndrome is a severe condition. Lack of prompt treatment may cause serious tissue damage due to pressure build-up, which leads to reduced oxygen circulation in the cells, a condition called ischemia. Eventually, the cells become weak, dysfunctional and start dying (necrosis). At this point, anything is possible, including paralysis and death.

Compartment Syndrome Characteristics

When your muscles become injured, they bleed and swell, releasing both blood and edema (swelling, fluid retention) in the compartment. With the increased volume of the muscles, these fluids start exerting more pressure in the compartment. The fascia is not flexible and does not expand to accommodate these changes. (x

Instead, the pressure increases and soon starts to affect blood flow into the cells. When left unchecked, the tissues eventually cannot receive enough nourishment and accumulate waste. It impairs their functioning. They start weakening and soon become damaged. Consequently, they die, and the entire organ becomes permanently damaged.

It mainly occurs and affects the arms, legs and abdomen, though other parts of the body such as the feet and hands can have compartment syndrome.

As a severe health concern, you need to be aware of the symptoms. However, there are preventive methods and natural remedies that may help you.

Types of Compartment Syndrome

Knowing the three different compartment syndrome types will help you determine how seriously you should consider your health concern.

Acute Compartment Syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome usually occurs only a few hours after you sustain a severe injury, especially one that causes fracturing or breaking of the bones. Rarely it happens from minor injuries.

This form of the condition requires immediate relief. Otherwise, the victim may suffer tissue death and even permanent disability. (x) One may have to amputate the affected organ.

Acute compartment syndrome in the legs is the most common form, but it could also affect the arms, buttocks, hands and feet. (x)

Acute Compartment Syndrome Causes

ACS is an urgent medical emergency that needs to be addressed right away by a healthcare professional. Some of the causes include:

  • A violent accident that may cause a bone fracture
  • Use of anabolic steroids, which are variations of male hormones 
  • A deep bruise to the muscle — this usually occurs after a violent hit with a blunt object that doesn’t necessarily penetrate the skin (for example, when a heavy object falls on the leg or when the arm miscalculates against a hard object)
  • Correction of blood flow after circulation blockage caused by sleeping for too long in a position that impedes blood flow (though uncommon, some people will sleep through the night in one position)
  • Constricting clothing, bandages or casts
  • Crash accident

Chronic Compartment Syndrome

Chronic compartment syndrome is generally less severe than the acute form. It usually occurs in athletes, gymnasts, and people who do many repetitive exercises such as running or swimming. While the exact link between exercise and the syndrome remains unknown, people under 40 have this type of incident more frequently.

You can relieve chronic compartment syndrome by stopping such exercises and working with a physical therapist. (x)

Abdominal Compartment Syndrome

Although relatively rare, the abdominal compartment syndrome, also known as the exertional compartment syndrome, affects the abdomen and commonly occurs after a severe illness, invasive surgery, or a nasty injury. (x

A severe form of the syndrome could easily affect the functioning of critical parts such as the liver, kidneys and other organs in the abdomen. Seeing as amputation of the abdomen is not possible, you need immediate and proper medical attention the moment of the first suspicion of abdominal compartment syndrome. If not, the condition may lead to permanent damage or the death of critical organs such as the liver, kidneys and even parts of the digestive system, calling for emergency transplants. (x

Abdominal Compartment Syndrome Causes

The causes of abdominal compartment syndrome are vital to know. If you experience this health concern, you need an urgent medical emergency. Some of the causes include:

  • Medical field associates abdominal compartment syndrome with:
  • Deep burns that extend to the abdominal muscles
  • Infections that may lead to inflammation of the abdominal muscles, such as sepsis
  • The fracturing of the pelvic bone
  • Vigorous and intense abdominal exercises such as sit-ups
  • Trauma and shock
  • Any surgery performed in the abdomen, such as liver and kidney transplants
  • Severe bleeding in the stomach region or ascites

Compartment Syndrome Symptoms

Being aware of these symptoms will save your life and others. At any time you become aware of possibly having compartment syndrome, contact your physician right away. Some include:

Acute Compartment Syndrome

  • Persistent and deep pain in the affected muscles compartment, especially when stretched or when applying pressure to it
  • An unexpected amount of pain after an injury, especially when stretching the affected part
  • A feeling of tightness and fullness in the affected region
  • Tingling and burning sensation (x)
  • Numbness and paralysis are common in the later stages when the condition is getting out of hand. Immediate medical attention is essential. Otherwise, the victim risks permanent damage to their muscles.

Chronic Compartment Syndrome

  • Pain and cramping during athletics or exercise
  • Numbness
  • Pain in the affected area — it increases with movement
  • Difficulty using the affected organ
  • A clearly visible muscle bulge

It’s essential to listen to your body. Symptoms of chronic compartment syndrome usually go away when one stops exercising. For instance, the pain and cramping can go away after 30 minutes of rest. If ignored, however, the pain may start lasting for more extended periods.

Abdominal Compartment Syndrome

As previously mentioned, abdominal compartment syndrome usually occurs in people who are very ill or in the hospital, often not in a position to describe the symptoms themselves. It is, therefore, up to a doctor to diagnose the symptoms on a routine check-up. The symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • It appears distended, tense or tight
  • The patient will wince in pain if touched or if required to sit upright or engage the abdomen in any way
  • There will be problems with the urine output, such as deficient amounts — this is because of the pressure exerted on the kidneys
Compartment Syndrome Symptoms

Compartment Syndrome Prevention

Seeing as the syndrome mainly occurs after accidents, it is hard to prevent it. The best you can do is to be careful and watch out for any signs after sustaining a severe injury. Here are some steps you can take to lower the chances of contracting the syndrome: (x)

  • Thorough diagnosis and treatment of injuries, especially those that display the symptoms named above
  • Getting a doctor to observe a cast or plaster that is tied too tightly — is especially crucial to do so if the wrapped injury is becoming increasingly painful and the swelling is not receding
  • Building endurance during exercise — don’t, however, overwork yourself and ignore the symptoms
  • Wear fitting shoes
  • Athletes should change their gait pattern and observe a healthy one
  • Work on improving flexibility to reduce the chances of contracting chronic compartment syndrome

Compartment Syndrome Treatment

Understanding the treatment for compartment syndrome may help you become more aware of this condition and heal faster. 


As the most obvious symptom of the compartment syndrome is swelling, the doctor may first perform a physical examination of the affected area. He or she will take a look at the swelling and ask questions regarding the time and nature of the injury. The doctor may also apply slight pressure on the affected region to determine how severe the pain is and rule out other similar conditions. (x)

Typically used, a pressure meter to find out how much pressure is in the compartment. The meter has an attached needle that gently points into the skin of the area in question so that the meter can show a reading. Usually, two readings are necessary; the amount of pressure exerted in the compartment during movement or exercise, particularly that which makes the area hurt, and the other when the muscles are at ease. (x)

Additional tests, including x-rays, may be necessary to rule out other similar problems.

For the case of abdominal compartment syndrome, the doctor may insert a catheter attached to a pressure monitor in the urinary bladder. Laboratory tests may also accompany this diagnosis.

Acute Compartment Syndrome Treatment

As mentioned earlier, this form of the syndrome is severe. Surgery is currently the only option. The doctor simply cuts open the fascia, the inelastic tissue surrounding the muscles, and lets off the pressure. (x)

Any edema or blood drains out, and the muscles have time to heal so that the swelling reduces. The section is then closed up, and sometimes skin grafting is necessary. The doctor removes any casts, dressings or splints in the problem area. (x)

Treatments of Chronic Compartment Syndrome

The first approach to chronic compartment syndrome is usually non-surgical, where the doctor suggests changes in physical indulgence and general lifestyle. Doctors may advise natural treatment for compartment syndrome, and the doctor can prescribe some supplements to help ease the swelling. Changes that may be necessary include:

  • Modifying a physical activity, especially exercise
  • Avoid certain physical activities
  • Resting after exercise
  • Medication to reduce inflammation
  • Switching the surface used for exercise
  • Physical therapy to stretch out the muscles, especially after a workout
  • Adding some ice on the affected part after the exercise

Use of orthotics

If these methods don’t work, the patient has no choice but to result in surgery. Unlike acute compartment syndrome surgery, however, the incision typically is not very deep. The purpose is the same, though; to open up the fascia and let out the pressure. After thorough consideration and agreement between any parties involved, the surgery occurs. (x)

Supplements for Compartment Syndrome Pain Management

For centuries, we’ve used natural remedies to help heal the body. Sometimes, deficiencies can cause health concerns that you may therapeutically remedy by supplementing the body with the correct nutrients, as is the case for compartment syndrome. You must talk to your physician before starting any new supplement. Some supplements to consider:

  1. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral used by the body in over 300 processes involving critical elements such as nerves and enzymes.

It is essential in the movement and coordination of nerve impulses in the nervous system. It is also helpful in facilitating the contraction and expansion of muscles. (x)

Most important in this context, at least, magnesium is an anti-inflammatory agent. Low levels have helped a variety of chronic and inflammatory conditions. (x)

In that regard, incorporating the supplement into pain management procedures will help ease the muscle inflammation and swelling, reducing the pain and speeding up the healing process.

  1. Calcium

Calcium is also an essential supplement. Combined with vitamin D, it is famous for its role in strengthening bones. Calcium helps in preventing acute compartment syndrome caused by bone fracturing. It also facilitates the movement of nerve impulses. (x) It even aids in reducing inflammation. (x)

  1. Fish Oil

Fish oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent and helps treat many diseases and conditions related to inflammation. (x) It is beneficial for people suffering from chronic compartment syndrome or even those healing after surgery to relieve acute compartment syndrome.

  1. Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are superfoods for their many health benefits, including their high content of essential nutrients. They also contain high amounts of omega-3, which not only helps in promoting good heart health but also in fighting inflammation. (x)

Where to Buy Supplements for Compartment Syndrome?

You can purchase these powders and supplements for Compartment Syndrome at The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor of pure dietary supplements. is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other food and supplement brands to make their products. All products at are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.

Are you interested in trying any of these powders or supplements mentioned in this article as a possible solution to helping you with Compartment Syndrome? Contact to place an order today.

The Bottom Line

Compartment syndrome flares up by increased pressure in the muscle compartments because of the inflammation of your muscles, including swelling and injury. Deep injury typically causes acute compartment syndrome to the tissue, while chronic compartment syndrome results from strenuous exercises.

The symptoms of the syndrome include swelling, a tightness feeling, a surprising amount of pain after an injury and deep pain when exertion happens on the affected part — diagnosis by physical examination, pressure monitoring and additional laboratory tests. Acute compartment syndrome is particularly severe, and surgery is typically necessary. One can relieve the chronic form through non-surgical methods, though surgery is also possible.

Supplements one can take to ease the pain include magnesium, calcium, fish oil and flaxseeds. They all contain anti-inflammatory properties and aid in the transmission of nerve impulses.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Author: Ryan Quigley
Graduate of Longwood University in Virginia. Part-time sports journalist covering the Vegas Golden Knights.