What is Anterior Compartment Syndrome?

Anterior compartment syndromes arise when a muscle becomes too big for the sheath that surrounds it causing pain. The big muscle on the outside of the shin is called the tibialis anterior. The and is surrounded by a sheath.

The main purpose of the muscle is in moving the foot upwards and outwards (dorsiflexion and eversion). A great deal of stress can be placed on this muscle throughout the running gait cycle.

This is called the anterior compartment of the lower leg. Compartment syndromes can be acute or chronic.

Symptoms

  • A sharp pain in the muscle on the outside of the lower leg, usually the result of a direct blow.
  • Weakness when trying to pull the foot upwards against resistance which may result in foot drop or a slapping gait.
  • Swelling and tenderness over the tibialis anterior muscle.
  • Pain when the foot and toes are bent downwards.
  • An impact which causes bleeding within the compartment and therefore swelling.
  • A muscle tear which also causes bleeding.
  • Over use injury which also causes swelling.
  • Rest, but try to exercise your upper body or cycle if it is not painful.
  • Apply ice or cold therapy and compression for 20 minutes at a time.
  • See a sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation.
  • Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication e.g. ibuprofen.
  • Correct any biomechanical dysfunction with orthotic devices.
  • Analyse your training methods, running gait and types of shoe to determine any contributory factors.
  • Operate. They could make a small cut or two in the muscle sheath to allow the muscle to expand out.

Treatment of Anterior Compartment Syndrome

What can the athlete do?

  • Rest, but try to exercise your upper body or cycle if it is not painful.
  • Apply ice or cold therapy and compression for 20 minutes at a time.
  • See a sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation.

What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?

  • Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication e.g. ibuprofen.
  • Correct any biomechanical disfunction with orthotic devices.
  • Analyse your training methods, running gait and types of shoe to determine any contributory factors.
  • Operate. They could make a small cut or two in the muscle sheath to allow the muscle to expand out.