Compartment Syndrome

You have an injury to the arm or leg with significant deep bruising and swelling. Fractures and muscle bruises cause bleeding in the deep tissues. This can increase the pressure in the injured forearm, leg, hand, or foot. If untreated, the pressure from the bleeding and swelling will interfere with the circulation. If this happens, there is increased pain, numbness, coldness, and a pale color to the hand or foot. Permanent damage to the muscle can occur within 4 to 8 hours if this goes untreated.

This is called a compartment syndrome. It needs immediate medical attention. If the pressure is very high, surgical treatment may be needed. Keep your injured extremity at the level of your heart. Use ice packs as directed by your caregiver.


  • You develop extreme pain unrelieved by pain medicine, ice, and elevation.

  • You develop numbness or paralysis (inability to move fingers, toes or ankles) of the hand or foot of the injured extremity.