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Exertional Compartment Syndrome


Exertional Compartment Syndrome

This is a type of pain commonly affecting the lower leg in running athletes. The affected area of the calf or lower leg may feel hard like concrete and intensely painful. The pain usually builds with activity and is relieved with rest. If you suspect this is happening when you run, please see us as we want to help you recover and get back to activities you enjoy.

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS)

This condition commonly affects young endurance athletes in high school and college. It is related to increased pressure in the muscle compartment. This is most commonly a problem affecting the lower leg. CECS is reversible in that the symptoms resolve quickly when the affected individual stops exercising.

We don’t yet fully understand how CECS starts, but exercise increases blood flow to the active muscles and as the volume expands and pressure increases in the muscle tissue, the blood flow to the muscle gets compromised causing ischemia which causes an aching, squeezing type pain. 

It is thought that many runners with this condition decrease or modify their activity levels to manage the condition, and that this condition is under diagnosed. If you are experiencing running related pain, it is important to make an appointment with a sports injury specialist who understands how to diagnose and treat CECS. Unfortunately, many athletes are initially misdiagnosed or experience a delay of months or years until correctly diagnosed. 

One of the challenges of CECS is that individuals are commonly without symptoms when resting or doing normal daily activities, and may look completely normal at the doctor’s office. 

If you are experiencing pain with running or suspect your running related leg pain is due to CECS, make an appointment to see us at Sports Health Northwest as we want to help you get back to running without pain.


Sports Health Northwest, Inc
12672 NW Barnes RD, STE 100
Portland, OR 97229
Phone: 503-747-6376
Fax: 503-530-8406

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