Separating Fact From Fiction: Does Compression Gear Really Work?

Compression gear. Chances are, you’ve probably seen it before. In fact, it seems like everyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes are touting the significant benefits of this new “breakthrough.” But is there really any proof to it? Is it a “placebo effect?” What’s the science to back it up?

At Total Performance Physical Therapy, we’re the expert physical therapists serving residents in  Horsham, and the surrounding areas. And not only that, but we’re also your source of news, information, and other useful resources. Now, let’s take a look at compression gear, and whether or not it really works.

A Brief History

Compression “technology” isn’t exactly a brand new breakthrough. In fact, compression gear has been used in the medical field for quite a long time. Generally in the form of stockings or socks made from various materials, compression gear was used to provide — you guessed it — compression against the leg.

But why was this necessary? The medical purpose of compression gear is to put pressure on the blood vessels, which constricts them. This results in the blood flowing through a smaller and tighter canal, leading to increased blood pressure in the legs and eventually forcing the blood back up the body to the heart.

The purpose here is to help avoid the blood from pooling in the legs. This can decrease swelling and can reduce the chances of deep vein thrombosis and even help with varicose veins. But now, triathletes, runners, and other athletes have begun to wear compression socks to improve their performance and speeding recovery times. But does it really work?

The Facts

Currently, there aren’t very many truly independent studies available on the effectiveness of compression wear for endurance athletes. However, most manufacturers of compression wear have conducted their own “research” and created their own “studies.” Their results should not be trusted since they benefit financially from them.

There were, however, a few independent studies:

A more reputable and trustworthy source, The Journal of Sports Sciences has conducted testing on compression socks. Their participant ran 10K time trials and using the compression socks, there was no enhancement in the runners’ performance.

In another study, various measurements were taken, including heart rate, blood lactate concentration, ventilation, and even maximal oxygen uptake. While there was no difference recording in these metrics while wearing compression socks, there was a statistical difference in the recovery of blood lactate concentrations while wearing the socks.

In a third study, various types of compression clothing were tested, including tights, socks, and even full-body wear. In terms of performance, there were no statistical effects recorded.

The Takeaway

While compression gear might not have any significant effect on your performance if you wear it during the activity, it can help your recovery if you wear it after the activity. Additionally, it can aid in reducing swelling for athletes. But whatever you think about the actual research regarding compression gear, if they feel good, you should probably wear them. If you truly believe that you are stronger, better, and faster, then you’ll be stronger, better, and faster.

For more information on compression gear or to schedule a consultation for physical therapy rehabilitation in Harleysville and the surrounding areas, contact us today.


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