What is anterior compartment syndrome?

Anterior compartment syndrome (or more appropriately called chronic exertional compartment syndrome) is a common problem in athletes who use the muscles on the front of the leg a lot, especially the anterior tibial muscle. When we exercise the muscles expand due to the increased blood flow. Normally that expansion is accommodated by the fascia that surrounds the muscle. In some people that fascia might be tighter and can not accommodate the expanding muscle and this causes a compression that can result in symptoms such as increasing pain with exercise.

Runners who heel strike when running use the anterior tibial muscle to lower the foot to the ground are at risk for this problem. Changing to a midfoot or forefoot strike can help anterior compartment syndrome as running that way uses that muscle less (but it does increase the load on other parts of the body, so is not a panacea).

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