Compartment Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 4/14/2021

Compartment syndrome refers to a condition of increased pressure within a muscle compartment of the arm or leg. The condition is most common in the forearm and lower leg.

Signs and symptoms of compartment syndrome include severe pain in the affected area along with changes in sensation that often manifest as a pins-and-needles sensation (paresthesia). Other associated signs and symptoms can include pallor of the skin and muscle weakness or paralysis.

Cause of compartment syndrome

Compartment syndrome is usually caused by an injury, such as a broken bone, that causes bleeding in a muscle, which then causes swelling and increased pressure in the muscle compartment. The increase in pressure leads to muscle and nerve damage due to reduced blood supply.

Other compartment syndrome symptoms and signs

  • Changes in Sensation, Such as a Pins and Needles Sensation (Paresthesia)
  • Muscle Weakness or Paralysis
  • Severe Pain in the Affected Area
  • Skin Pallor


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.