Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chronic Compartment Syndrome

My favorite running buddy and loving boyfriend is voluntarily going under the knife tomorrow.  About a year ago, he began experiencing extreme calf pain after any races or speed work.  The pain would linger for days, worse than normal soreness.  He stopped racing and began running my pace.  This was very frustrating for someone who was used to running a 20 minute 5k.

Right before the Rave Run - one of his last pain-free races

He began reading books (like this one) and researching on the internet.  He came across a number of stories of athletes (runners and bikers mostly) experiencing the same symptoms.  It turns out there is a condition called Chronic Compartment Syndrome that can affect athletes that participate in repetitive impact sports (ie. running).

Chronic Compartment Syndrome occurs when a muscle expands or swells at a greater rate than allowed by the fascia (sheath of tissue) that surrounds the muscle.  For athletes, this is induced by extreme exercise.  I believe it is most common in the lower leg.  Of course pain in the legs can be caused by a number of things, but for him, this was it.

A few months ago, he had some tests done.  First they took an MRI of his legs.  Then they took pressure measurements of his calves before and after exercise.  This is an invasive test that involves large needles being shoved into your muscles.  He is a brave guy, and I'm glad I wasn't in his shoes.  His pressure measurements were high enough for the doctor to feel with confident that the diagnosis of Compartment Syndrome was correct.

Compartment Syndrome is not something you have to treat.  It is not life threatening and if you change your exercise routine to contain more cross training and less strenuous workouts, the pain will likely fade.  The most successful treatment is surgery.  Incisions are made in the fascia surrounding the compartment to allow the muscles to expand fully.

My boyfriend spent a lot of time discerning whether to do the surgery, but he finally decided that he wants to get back to racing.  That means that early tomorrow I will be taking him to a surgery center to do surgery on his first leg.  Please say some prayers and send some happy thoughts that his surgery goes well tomorrow.

If anyone knows anything about Compartment Syndrome and would like to share, I'm grateful for your comments.  I think a disclaimer goes without saying, I am not a medical professional and probably have a few of the facts wrong.  Please, no criticisms.

And one more picture - the first race he paced me.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks. The surgery went well and so far he is recovering well on day 1. I'll try to do an update post after he's gone through some therapy.

  2. Glad to see in the comments that the surgery went well! I hope he has a speedy recovery!!

  3. Glad to hear that the surgery went well! I hope that all goes well with his recovery and that he can get back to running sometime in the near future!