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Effect of eccentric exercise on patients with chronic exertional compartment syndrome

Birtles, Deirdre B. and Rayson, Mark P. and Jones, David A. and Padhiar, Nat and Casey, Anna and Newham, Di J. (2003) Effect of eccentric exercise on patients with chronic exertional compartment syndrome. European journal of applied physiology, 88 (6). pp. 565-71. ISSN 1439-6319

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Abstract

There are a number of similarities between chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) and the effects of high force eccentric contractions in healthy controls. We hypothesised that CECS patients would be particularly susceptible to pain, fatigue and swelling after eccentric exercise. Ten CECS patients [aged 30.3 (8.0) years, mean (SD)], 7 males) and 14 healthy controls [aged 32.3 (9.0) years, 7 males] performed 40 maximal eccentric contractions of the anterior tibial muscles at an angular velocity of 90(o) s(-1). Maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVC), force generated by electrical stimulation at 10 Hz and 50 Hz and muscle thickness (measured by real-time ultrasound scanning) were measured before exercise and for 10 min afterwards. Ratings of pain and tenderness were made before exercise, then 24 h and 48 h later. The two groups were comparable for initial isometric strength and muscle size. MVC force immediately after exercise fell to 90 (2.5)% [mean (SEM)] in patients and 86.5 (2.4)% in controls (P<0.0005 for both groups) and had not recovered after 10 min. Preferential loss of force at the low stimulation frequency occurred in both groups to a similar extent (20%, P<0.0005) and continued to decline over 10 min of recovery. There was no significant change in muscle thickness in either group. Only mild pain and tenderness were reported by the controls. The patients showed great individual variation but their mean pain scores were significantly higher during dorsiflexion and palpation (P<0.05) 24 h after exercise. After 48 h the patients reported more pain during dorsiflexion (P=0.005), plantarflexion (P<0.05) and palpation (P<0.05). These results suggest that some, but not all, CECS patients may be more susceptible to the pain associated with eccentric contractions that is thought to be the cause of damage and inflammation of connective tissue.

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