Long-distance running is a popular athletic pursuit, but it's also hard on your body. The repetitive pounding of your feet against the pavement can lead to overuse injuries like chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS). Here are three things runners need to know about this injury.
What are the symptoms?
If you develop CECS, the muscles in your lower legs will cramp soon after you start running. The pain will keep getting worse throughout your run, but once you're at rest, you'll feel fine within 30 minutes. If you keep running through the pain, eventually, the pain will take longer to go away, and you may be sore for a day or two after each run.
In addition to the pain, CECS can cause sensations like numbness or tingling in your legs. In severe cases, you may develop foot drop; this means that you won't be able to raise your foot from your ankles, and your toes will drag on the ground when you walk or run.
Why does CECS occur?
Most of the time, CECS occurs due to overexertion. If you're running long distances and not getting enough rest in between your runs, your body won't be able to heal from the repetitive microtrauma.
How repetitive microtrauma leads to CECS still isn't known, but researchers have put forward many theories. One theory is that the trauma compromises the blood supply to your legs, which damages both the muscles and the nerves. Another theory is that muscle swelling is responsible for the symptoms. Finally, exercise may release protein-bound ions, which build up in your muscles and lead to increased pressure. More research is required to identify exactly how CECS occurs.
How is CECS treated?
Like other sports injuries, CECS is first treated with non-surgical methods. These methods include:
Unfortunately, these methods aren't always effective, so the gold standard of treatment is surgery, specifically a fasciotomy.
A fasciotomy is a surgical procedure that involves making a large incision in the affected limb and cutting the fascia (connective tissue) that covers the swollen muscles. This takes the pressure off of the swollen muscles and prevents your tissues from becoming further damaged due to swelling.
If your legs are sore and numb after a run, you may have chronic exertional compartment syndrome. This condition can damage your nerves and muscles, so make sure to seek treatment with rehab specialists like the Holly Heights Nursing Home right away.
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