Graduated Compression was not a widely known technology some 10 to 20 years ago, but in 2017, thanks in part to its application in sports, it is common in many circles. What was once a medical product reserved only for patients with venous insufficiencies, is now a well-adopted technology chosen proactively by athletes in all sports, most commonly running and triathlon. This begs the question, what is graduated compression, where did it come from, why has it become so popular in sports & what do you need to know about modern compression gear?How does it work you ask? Compression stockings are elastic garments worn around the leg, compressing the limb. The highest compression is found at the ankle, and lessening value moving up the leg (hence "graduated"). This reduces the diameter of distended veins and increases venous blood flow velocity and valve effectiveness. Compression therapy helps decrease venous pressure, prevents venous stasis and impairments of venous walls, and relieves heavy and aching legs.If you are a history buff you will love to know that compression therapy is nothing new. The first evidence of forms of compression are found in cave drawings of Tassili in Sahara as early as 5000-2500 BCE. Crazy, right? When it comes to more modern graduated compression though, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that doctors discovered that external pressure (compression) could be a more formal treatment for deep vein thrombosis. Fast forward to the early 2000’s and some 5,000 + years after initially being discovered, we are just now seeing the proliferation of graduated compression into sports and everyday lives.Who loves it the most? Over the last 10 years we’ve seen endurance athletes, such as marathoners and triathletes, as the biggest consumers of the product. Check out this chart showing that in just 2008 according to Google Trends there was 0 interest in the search term “compression running socks” but since then it has been dramatically on the rise.So now that we’ve established some background, let's get down to what you, whether you are Casual Jogger Jill or Marathoner Matt, need to know about your sports compression in 2017. The Fit is crucialIf you get one thing right when you buy compression socks, it has to be the size. Remember, this was a medical product first, so before you just grab a pair and thrown them on, you should make sure you have the right fit. There are two measurements that you should gather, shoe size and calf circumference. The manufacturer should list both with a size chart to help you calculate the right size for you. If your sizing is off, it can affect the quality of the compression and diminish the benefits that you get from wearing them. So if you are buying as a surprise for a friend, we recommend you find a sneaky way to grab their calf circumference first ;) Pre, during, or post workout?The answer is yes. Compression has benefits in all three instances. Increased blood flow means faster muscle warm-up pre-exercise. Muscle stabilization and circulation benefits help during a workout or game, alleviating calf cramps and shin splints. Lactic acid removal makes for faster recovery post exercise. By choosing compression in all facets, pre, during and post, you give your legs the best chance and being healthy for the long term.What is mmHg?mmHg stands for millimeters of mercury. In layman’s terms, it is the measurement for how strong the graduated compression is, the bigger the number the tighter the squeeze. 15-20mmHg is considered moderate or mild compression and is recommended for everyday use and for during exercise. Anything 20-30 mmHg and higher is considered medical grade and is recommended for treating venous insufficiencies or for short period post exercise use. So, basic rule of thumb, if you have a physical condition that warrants compression, 20-30 mmHg could be for you, but if you don’t, then stick with 15-20 mmHg for anything during exercise and mix in the 20-30 mmHg for short term recovery wears.Does graduated compression improve performance?Great question. Will it make you run faster the first day you put them on? Probably not. Will you perform better over the course of a long season? You bet. Graduated compression helps extend the life of your legs by keeping them healthy and supported during training, competition and everyday life. A great article on the physical and mental benefits of graduated compression can be found here.What are my style options?Good news for compression consumers in 2017, style is everywhere. Not only are you going to feel good in your compression socks, you can look good at the same time. Beautiful styles and colors are available for sports compression today so you can match any outfit!Will wearing compression make my legs hot?It’s a logical question. Will these make me extra hot or will I sweat more during my summer runs? A recent study from 2017 tested the application of compression during exercise in hot weather. The study found that while compression doesn’t increase or reduce sweating in any way, wearing compression does increase blood flow when exercising in heat. This is good news for summer joggers who often aren’t fond of air-conditioned treadmills at the gym. Final thoughtsHopefully this 2017 guide for graduated compression answers the majority of questions that you have. If you having lingering questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] and we would be happy to help.
Remember, compression is not just for athletes and individuals with adverse medical diagnoses, compression is everyone. Regardless of age or activity level, anyone can benefit from the circulatory benefits of compression. So you don’t have to be Allen Iverson or a rugby brute to reap the benefits. You can be a data entry specialist who spends most of your 8-hour work day at 90-degree angle, or someone who enjoys the occasional pickup basketball game with your friends.
Poor blood circulation is a symptom of both low and high physical activity. The steady application of graduated compression throughout the day can make a huge difference in how you feel the next day and the day after that. In fact, compression can help extend the life of your legs.
Thanks to our friends at Legend Compression for providing this educational piece on compression wear.