What are compression garments?
Compression garments are designed for many parts of the body. For this article, I will focus on the lower leg.
Compression socks or sleeves are a specially designed garment that have a graduated compression, stronger at the ankle and decreasing slightly toward the knee, designed to improve the efficiency of blood flow to the lower leg and back to the heart.
Sock technology and the ability to make high quality compression socks and sleeves is improving all the time. There are many good options for quality, functional compression products. I want to point out some of the benefits and what to look for in a compression garment for your individual needs.
Compression garments are rated by the amount of pressure they exert on the muscles, measured in millimeters of mercury or mmHg. Below 40 mmHg can be purchased without a prescription. Performance garments are usually rated at 20-30 mmHg. The reason for the varying measurement is because a functional compression garment should have graduated compression.
A true compression garment designed for performance or recovery should be sized by a calf circumference measurement. Lower compression garments (15-20 mmHg), good for wearing all day or long travels, are usually sized S-M-L. Even if the garment is sized S-M-L, the compression value should be listed.
Here are a few of the effects on muscles:
- Increases blood circulation
- Increases the drainage of lactic acid in the muscles
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves movement of tendons and joints
- Reduces muscle vibration which means less fatigue
- Reduces muscle soreness after exercise
While I am not endorsing any one specific brand, I personally have been using the Sigvaris compression sleeves for years. They have a seamless design that I enjoy wearing for a variety of activities and even sleeping in. For everyday use and travel, I wear the Feetures! compression sock; a compression sleeve built into the Feetures! Elite Series sock is a very comfortable combo for long periods of standing.
How to choose?
Generally, whenever possible, a compression sock provides the most benefit. If your footwear is greatly effected by the sock you wear or if you want to go barefoot, then a sleeve will be a good option.
You can use the same garment for performance and recovery. Use them during activity and either leave them on or put them back on after you change.
Compression garments can also be beneficial for long travels either in a car or on a plane. This is because our body does not always pump all of the blood out of our lower extremities. And when we are sedentary our heart rate is lower adding to the lower efficiency of circulating blood. If you are traveling it would be best to use a full sock.
Compression garments can be a nice addition to your recovery and performance enhancement program. They are easy to use and provide near immediate benefits. I am always available to answer questions that you may have about compression or other techniques for recovery and enhancement.