Massage therapy and compartment syndrome

exercise induced compartment syndrome

Compartment syndrome

Chronic exertional compartment syndrome is an exercise-induced condition that causes pain, swelling and in severe cases there is associated numbness. Anyone can develop chronic exertional compartment syndrome, but it's more common to occur in runners.

Rest and conservative interventions usually allow symptoms to resolve. It is very rare that athletes require surgical interventions to manage their symptoms, however in these cases massage therapists should be aware of how they can contribute to post-surgical rehabilitation programs (Flautt et al. 2013Schubert 2011).

Post-surgical rehabilitation

Papers have highlighted potential consequences of pathological post-traumatic healing, as a result many rehabilitation programs use mechanical means to improve healing (Thompson et al. 2016). As part of this rehabilitation strategy, there is evidence to suggest that in addition to managing pain and discomfort, massage may also improve tissue healing (Berrueta et al. 2016, Bove et al. 2016, Best et al. 2012Cholok et al. 2017, Waters-Banker, et al. 2014).

Massage therapy is simple to carry out, economical, and has very few side effects, so it is worth investigating the effects of massage therapy on post-surgical rehabilitation. Dosage and duration is something that is depending on the stage, and more research on the issue is warranted. 

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Related Research
Beck, J.J., Tepolt, F.A., Miller, P.E., Micheli, L.J., Kocher, M.S. (2016). Surgical Treatment of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome in Pediatric Patients. Am J Sports Med.

Berrueta, L., Muskaj, I., Olenich, S., Butler, T., Badger, G. J., Colas, R. A., . . . Langevin, H. M. (2016). Stretching Impacts Inflammation Resolution in Connective Tissue. Journal of Cellular Physiology.

Blackman, P.G., Simmons, L.R., Crossley, K.M. (1998). Treatment of chronic exertional anterior compartment syndrome with massage: a pilot study. Clin J Sport Med.

Bove, G., & Chapelle, S. (2012). Visceral mobilization can lyse and prevent peritoneal adhesions in a rat model. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Bove, G., Harris, M., Zhao, H., & Barbe, M. (2016). Manual therapy as an effective treatment for fibrosis in a rat model of upper extremity overuse injury. Journal of the Neurological Sciences.

Best, T., Gharaibeh, B., & Huard, J. (2012). Stem cells, angiogenesis and muscle healing: A potential role in massage therapies? British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Braver, R.T. (2016). Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome. Clin Podiatr Med Surg.

Cezar, C.A., Roche, E.T., Vandenburgh, H.H., Duda, G.N., Walsh, C.J., Mooney, D.J. (2016). Biologic-free mechanically induced muscle regeneration. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Chaitow, L. (2016). Dosage and manual therapies – Can we translate science into practice? Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

Cholok, D., Lee, E., Lisiecki, J., Agarwal, S., Loder, S., Ranganathan, K., Qureshi, A.T., Davis, T.A., Levi, B. (2017). Traumatic muscle fibrosis: From pathway to prevention. J Trauma Acute Care Surg.


Danna, N. R., Beutel, B. G., Campbell, K. A., & Bosco, J. A. (2014). Therapeutic Approaches to Skeletal Muscle Repair and Healing. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach.

Dunn, S. L., & Olmedo, M. L. (2016). Mechanotransduction: Relevance to Physical Therapist Practice--Understanding Our Ability to Affect Genetic Expression Through Mechanical Forces. Physical Therapy.

Fisher, P., Zhao, Y., Rico, M., Massicotte, V., Wade, C., Litvin, J., . . . Barbe, M. (2015). Increased CCN2, substance P and tissue fibrosis are associated with sensorimotor declines in a rat model of repetitive overuse injury. Journal of Cell Communication and Signaling. (Open Access)

Flautt, W., Miller, J. (2013). Post-surgical rehabilitation following fasciotomies for bilateral chronic exertional compartment syndrome in a special forces soldier: a case report. Int J Sports Phys The. (Open Access)

Galbraith, R.M., Lavallee, M.E. (2009). Medial tibial stress syndrome: conservative treatment options. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. (Open Access)

Laumonier, T., & Menetrey, J. (2016). Muscle injuries and strategies for improving their repair. Journal of Experimental Orthopaedics. (Open Access)

Orlin, J.R., Lied, I.H., Stranden, E., Irgens, H.U., Andersen, J.R. (2016). Prevalence of chronic compartment syndrome of the legs: Implications for clinical diagnostic criteria and therapy. Scand J Pain.

Rajasekaran, S., Hall, M.M. (2016). Nonoperative Management of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Curr Sports Med Rep.

Schubert, A.G. (2011)  Exertional compartment syndrome: review of the literature and proposed rehabilitation guidelines following surgical release. Int J Sports Phys  Ther. (Open Access)

Thompson, W. R., Scott, A., Loghmani, M. T., Ward, S. R., & Warden, S. J. (2016). Understanding Mechanobiology: Physical Therapists as a Force in Mechanotherapy and Musculoskeletal Regenerative Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy. (Open Access)

Waters-Banker, C., Dupont-Versteegden, E. E., Kitzman, P. H., & Butterfield, T. A. (2014). Investigating the Mechanisms of Massage Efficacy: The Role of Mechanical Immunomodulation. Journal of Athletic Training. (Open Access)