Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Dealing with a Dangerous Exercise Injury?

Could you discuss chronic compartment syndrome? Are there any nutritional supplements, rubs, therapies, or exercises that can help?

Answer (Published 12/6/2005)

Compartment syndrome results from an injury that causes a swelling of muscles or other tissues in the arms, hands, legs, or feet. Muscle groups and their associated blood and nerves in these areas are covered by fascia, a tough tissue that doesn't expand. As a result, when the injured muscle swells, pressure builds up within the "compartment" created by the fascia, resulting in severe pain. If the pressure gets too high, permanent damage to nerves, blood vessels and muscle tissue can occur.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency. It usually is the result of a traumatic injury caused by fracture of a bone or a severe bruise to a muscle; a complication of surgery; a crush injury; prolonged blockage of circulation; or long-term use of anabolic steroids. Acute compartment syndrome can come on very quickly. This is not something to ignore, and if symptoms don't improve with anti-inflammatory medications, swift medical intervention is necessary.

Chronic compartment syndrome, which is not a medical emergency, usually affects the legs and is marked by intense pain and swelling. It is most often caused by repetitive exercise. Typically, the pain disappears when you stop exercising. Symptoms also can include a tingling or burning feeling in the muscle, the feeling that the muscle is tight or full, and pale, cold skin. If the area becomes numb or paralyzed, the only treatment is surgery to relieve the pressure, although this rarely occurs.

For correct diagnosis doctors must exclude other causes of pain and measure compartment pressure before and immediately after exercise. (This is done by inserting a needle attached to a pressure meter into the compartment). Treatment involves avoiding the activities that lead to the problem, applying ice to the injured limb, and elevating it slightly, as well as taking aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. You also might try acupuncture or topical DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). Made from wood pulp, this chemical penetrates the skin and promotes healing. You can buy it at a health food store. Paint a 70-percent solution of DMSO on the sore area with cotton and let it dry. You may feel warmth or stinging, and experience a garlicky taste in your mouth. Try it three times a day for three days. If there is no improvement, stop using it. If you do feel some improvement, apply DMSO twice a day for three more days, then once a day for a final three days.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here