If you’ve ever attended a long-form triathlon (“half-iron” or longer), you have probably seen people racing in compression stockings or leg sleeves. I don’t know whether compression socks can make you faster or reduce the pain of a marathon run, but I do know there are significant, proven benefits in compression therapy for muscle recovery. Here’s just one study, from 2015. Although that study was published in 2015, the benefits of compression have been well understood for much longer than that.
Applying compression for muscle recovery is an idea that came from medicine. Compression socks are a staple for treating chronic venous disease, leg injuries, and post-operative leg surgery. They have also been used by savvy travelers as well. Traveling, whether by airplane or car, usually means sitting for prolonged periods, and sitting for long periods can lead to a pooling of blood in your legs. Compression socks help to reduce the blood pooling. So the next time you need to go on a long trip, try wearing a pair of compression socks. You might arrive at your destination in better shape and at much less risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or varicose veins.
Unlike your arteries, which convey your blood from your heart to the rest of your body, your veins, which bring the used blood back, need special mechanisms to keep the blood moving. One of these mechanisms is leg movement. Repeatedly contracting your calf muscles, which you do when you walk, acts like a secondary heart and pushes the blood through the veins. The veins are equipped with little one-way valves that also help the process by preventing the blood from flowing back. When you age, some of these valves wear out, which is why older people are at greater risk for venous disease than younger ones. Overweight people are also at greater risk, as are sedentary people. Compression socks, of course, help to keep venous blood flowing by squeezing the veins and making it difficult for the blood to flow back.
But compression socks, even when they apply a compression gradient, offer only static compression. A more effective compression can be had with sequential pneumatic compression. With sequential pneumatic compression garments, the compression is created by inflatable cells, which makes it possible to inflate them in patterns, so that the compression moves up and down the limb in whatever pattern is best adapted to keep the blood moving. Sequential pneumatic compression is a service we offer here at Peak Recovery & Health Center, and you can learn more about it here.
The equipment we use is designed for athletes, to help them recover from muscle stress of competitive events or particularly hard workouts. Sequential pneumatic compression is also used in hospitals, to treat venous disease or for recovery from surgery. This page at the Johns Hopkins Medicine site describes pneumatic compression as a treatment. If sequential pneumatic compression can treat venous disease, I have to believe it can help to prevent it as well. If you need treatment for a venous disease, you should seek a doctor’s care. But if you want to try using sequential pneumatic compression to prevent it and to keep your veins healthy and strong, you are welcome to book a compression session with us. One of these sessions can reduce inflammation, flush waste and toxins naturally, expedite recovery from athletic efforts, and increase your flexibility and range of motion.