Z Benefits of Compression
A Revolution in Compression Wear
Compression socks, stocking, tights or leggings have been around for decades, and were originally used for medical purposes – to improve blood circulation, add support after an injury, treat venous insufficiencies, wear post-surgery, and manage chronic illnesses.
Today consumers are gradually becoming more aware of the benefits of compression, and you can see a whole plethora of individuals who wear them, from pilots, flight attendants, sports men and women, from healthcare workers to pregnant women, as well as people recovering from surgery, and people otherwise at risk for blood clots in their legs.
Elite and amateur athletes are increasingly wearing compression socks to maximise their athletic performance, speed up muscle recovery and alleviate the lactic acid build up either during or post workout. There is still resistance from the general public to invest in the preventative benefits of compression hosiery, simply because on the whole they have been unattractive, synthetic and very uncomfortable to put on, wear for any long period of time and take off – there is a whole market developed around plastic devices designed to help you put on compression socks!
How Compression Wear Works
To really understand how compression socks and sleeves work, and to appreciate the benefits afforded by compression, let’s look at how the blood flows through the body. The heart pumps oxygen containing blood to our extremities, and working muscles, through arteries. Once the cells use the oxygen and other nutrients from the blood, the deoxygenated blood, along with lactic acid and other waste products enter the veins to get taken back to the heart. Once the blood gets back to the heart, it’s oxygenated from the lungs and the process is repeated.
Keeping oxygenated blood flowing to muscles is important for performance. The more oxygen the cells have, the better they will function. During exercise, the body produces lactic acid as a waste product. If this lactic acid is not removed from the muscles, it can contribute to soreness and decreased ability to perform. Another factor in decreased performance is muscle fatigue. Muscular vibration during physical activity contributes to fatigue. Think about how much shock and vibration is going through your leg muscles as you pound pavement with 3-5 times your body weight while running. Over time, those little vibrations of the muscles add up and they become fatigued.
Apart from undergoing sports activity, in our everyday activity and lifestyle, too much sitting or standing over time can take its toll and can result in swelling, achiness, or even or numbness, in the feet, ankles and legs. The older we get, the more sluggish our circulation can become, and pooling of blood in the lower legs and feet is commonplace. The swelling can then make wearing any shoes particularly uncomfortable. We all know sitting in a plane or car for an extended period of time can wreak havoc on the blood flow in our legs!
In all ATOM compression products, there is a precise science in the manufacture process. They are made in a medical factory with constant testing of the pressure levels being created, with continuous research and development to bring you the latest technology for better leg health.
The technical science of graduated compression is the squeezing of the leg, starting at the ankle with the highest pressure (measured in millimeters of mercury – mm Hg), and then gradually reducing the pressure with each row of knitting as you go up the leg. The pressure at the top of the sock is down to the effect of a non-compression sock. The issue is also to avoid the tourniquet effect, where pressure below and above a certain region is higher than the central zone, resulting in outward expansion. Some cheaper non medical grade compression socks are at risk of causing this effect.
Recent studies show that with an optimal level of consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! On the other hand, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression, which helps to increase the velocity of blood flow through them. Increased velocity of blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid will get back to the heart quicker, which will help to increase the rate of recovery and decrease muscle soreness! Compression will also help to stabilise the muscle and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, resulting in decreased fatigue.
Linking such studies to published research has been mixed on how well items like a compression sleeve or sock helps you when you’re performing any sports activity, but when it comes to post-exercise help, plenty of research supports the link between decreased post-exercise soreness and the use of compression, and let’s not forget the psychological benefit to wearing items like a compression calf sleeve, tight, and other gear, because you feel you’re doing something to actively help your recovery and boost your performance for the next run, and the best part - No research has shown that compression gear decreases your performance!
Medically, compression socks have been used for many circulation related conditions such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis), Spider and Varicose Veins, helping relieve some of the symptoms and slow the progress of such diseases, sopurportedme of which can be genetically inherent. Compression socks span the range of strengths from 8-15 mm Hg to 40-60 mm Hg, however below 17-18 mm Hg the effect is minimal and more a firm support article than an active medical device; It has been noted that some staggering 30-60% of patients do not wear medical compression socks as prescribed by their doctors. The most commonly cited reasons are the lack of style and appearance, discomfort, including excessive heat and skin irritation and difficulty getting them on and off. We at ATOM work within the 18-22 mm Hg prevention range, as opposed to the style range below 18 mm Hg or disease management range of 30+ mm Hg, which should always be under the supervision of a Physician.
In summary, compression aids:
Circulation: Aiding transport of blood both deep down to muscles, and the venous return back to the heart, reducing incidents of blood pooling or swelling.
Blood lactate levels: A significant decrease in post-exercise lactate.
Invigorate: Boost much-needed nutrients and oxygen into the legs and feet. People who wear compression socks have reported their legs feel invigorated. They also report being pain free and having no more weakness in the problem areas.
Regenerate: The compression helps regenerate damaged tissues, especially in those suffering from conditions leg ulcers, arthritis, and varicose veins.
Athletic performance: Compression socks can improve proprioception and reduce muscle oscillation, which result in improved muscle efficiency. This would enhance performances in sports and running. Many sports enthusiasts are commending the muscle regeneration and increased blood flow, and now looking for ways to maximise other parts of the body.
Oxygenation: Improved movement efficiency by oxygenation renewal, also improving muscle coordination.
Recovery: Compression has proven to be effective as an active recovery therapy for injuries and other health issues. Swelling and pain is reduced as well as showing a lower circulatory creatine kinase concentration. What makes it an appealing option for training and running athletes is the ability to be worn in transit, so recovery continues after leaving a training gym or likewise. Compression socks have been used medically as an aid for faster recovery, so it remains no surprise this technology would extend beyond institutional or medical uses.
Air Travel: People who travel, or even stand or sit for prolonged periods of time could be at risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. This is one of the primary reasons compression socks have become more necessary in the public eye. The problem of low-mobility on a long airline flight can become serious quite fast. The blood flow becomes relatively too low and puts a person at a higher risk for dangerous blood clots. Even airline flight personnel now incorporate compression therapy into their work schedules by wearing compression socks or hosiery.
So, the preventative solution looks to be to aid the circulation, to work against the effects of gravity and get venous return back to the heart efficiently so that it can be oxygenated, and waste materials can be removed. Simple, yes? Yes, absolutely simple, however, if we are to wear them every day, for all occasions, then comfort and style must be on equal par with performance, and we hope that you will find ATOM compression products answer some of your needs.
We must make clear that our products are designed at 18-22 mm Hg which is in the wellness and may aid prevention as part of a healthy lifestyle class I, and not as higher grade treatment compression.
All compression can have contra-indications depending upon health history and genetics, please ensure compression is suitable for you.
The ATOM team are here to help you with any queries you may have regards our compression products. Please contact us.