Leg injuries

Tibial Compartment Syndrome – The Injured Runner

Compartment Syndrome is a condition that primarily affects the muscles on the front of the shin (dorsiflexors). Occasionally, a compartment syndrome can occur in the deep calf muscles.

The muscles on the front outside portion of the shin are enclosed by a thick tissue called fascia which form a compartment. Occasionally, swelling of the muscles or contraction of the muscles results in an abnormally high amount of pressure in this compartment.

Symptoms are generally a painful, tight sensation that begins and intensifies with running then improves with rest. I have seen a couple of runners that would actually loose muscular strength towards the end of the run. They could not heel walk without the foot falling to the ground. This condition can progress to an emergency situation – if you have extreme pain, notice loss of circulation in the foot or numbness between the first and second toe see a physician immediately.

  • Stretching can completely relieve mild to moderate cases. If your calf muscles are tight this will create more work for the muscles in the compartment (dorsiflexors) and hence more swelling. Perform the bent and straight knee calf stretches two to three times per day. Stretching the dorsiflexor muscles will also help workout the soreness and swelling in this area.
  • Applying ice after your run will help reduce swelling in the compartment.
  • Deep massage of the anterior compartment may help reduce swelling within the compartment.
  • Strengthening of the dorsiflexors may also help, as the muscles become better conditioned you may not experience as much pressure in the compartment. Heel walking is one way to help condition these muscles.