Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Options to treat chronic exertional compartment syndrome include both conservative and surgical methods. However, conservative measures are typically only successful if you stop or drastically change your activity.

Conservative options

Your doctor may initially recommend pain medications, stretching or strengthening regimens, orthotics, massage, a break from exercise, or the use of different biomechanical techniques, such as changing how you land when you jog. However, these kinds of conservative options typically don't provide lasting benefit for true chronic exertional compartment syndrome.

You can also consider switching to a different sport. For instance, if your symptoms are related to jogging, try biking instead.

Surgical options

Surgery is the main treatment of chronic exertional compartment syndrome, and the most effective. Surgery involves operating on the fascia — the inelastic tissue encasing each muscle compartment. Methods include either cutting open the fascia of each affected compartment (fasciotomy) or actually removing part of the fascia (fasciectomy). In either case, this release or decompression means the compartment is no longer trapped by the unyielding fascia, giving it room to expand when pressure increases.

Although surgery is highly effective for most people, it's not without risk. Complications of the surgery can include infection, permanent nerve damage, numbness and scarring.

Feb. 20, 2013