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Compartment Syndrome


  • Compartment syndrome (SIN-drohm) is a condition that occurs when pressure increases within a compartment (closed space) in the body. Inside this compartment are muscle tissues, nerves, and blood vessels that are enclosed by a fascia. The fascia is a thick layer of special protective tissue that does not expand (grow). Compartment syndrome happens when there is swelling in the compartment. This swelling inside the compartment puts pressure on the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Blood flow to the compartment may be blocked and lead to muscle and nerve injury. Over time, the injured limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot) may not work anymore.
  • Common signs or symptoms of compartment syndrome include severe pain, swelling, and weakness. You may also have tingling, tenderness, and a tense (tight) or full feeling in the affected muscles. Your skin may be pale and you may have trouble moving the injured limb. Blood and urine tests, muscle compartment measurement, and laser doppler flowmetry may be used to diagnose compartment syndrome. Treatment may include removing a tight cast, medicines for pain, or surgery to decrease the pressure and swelling.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

Ask your caregiver how to take care of your wound or change your bandage. Ask them how often bandages need to be changed.


  • Exercise: Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising. Together you can plan an exercise program that best suits you. It is better to start slowly and do more as you get stronger. Exercising may make the bones and muscles stronger. Rest when you feel it is needed.
  • Walking: You may need to use a cane, walker or crutches. This may help you get around and decrease your chances of falling or getting hurt. Ask your caregiver how to use your cane, walker, or crutches correctly.

Brace or splint care:

Caregivers may put a splint on your arm or legs to stop your injured limb from moving while it heals. It may also be used to decrease pain. A splint is made of plaster or fiberglass. Ask your caregiver for more information on brace or splint care.


Rehabilitation programs may help you do your usual activities. Therapies teach you special skills to recover faster and have a more full life.

  • Physical therapy: You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy (OT) uses work, self-care, and other normal daily activities to help you function better in your daily life. OT helps you develop skills to improve your ability to bathe, dress, cook, eat, and drive. You may learn to use special tools to help you with your daily activities. You may also learn new ways to keep your home or workplace safe.


  • You have a fever.
  • You have more swelling than you did before a splint or brace was put on.
  • Your skin is itchy and swollen, or has a rash.
  • You cannot make it to your next appointment with your caregiver or therapist.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition, care, or medicine.


  • You have trouble breathing, pain in your chest, or confusion.
  • Your injured limb or the area around it turns blue or white, or feels cold and numb.
  • Your bandages, splint, or wound becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your pain or swelling is not relieved or is getting worse even after taking medicine.
  • Your splint gets damaged or breaks.
  • Your wound, bandages, or splint has pus or a bad smell.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Compartment Syndrome (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.