Compression Garments

Compression garments are often seen in elite sport and recreational populations but what are the benefits of utilising them as part of post exercise recovery. Are they beneficial at all?

Purpose of compression garments

  • Originally used for treating clinical pathologies such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and chronic-venous insufficiency.
  • Improved recovery from strenuous exercise and exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD)
  • Claims to create external pressure to reduce the space for swelling as well as enhancing blood flow, facilitating removal of waste and byproducts
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Evaluation of the effectiveness of compression garments on muscle soreness

Effects of compression on recovery measures

It is important to note, when reading the scientific literature, that modalities for recovery vary and multiple strategies are employed to facilitate effective and efficient recovery. Studies examining only the use of compression garments give an insight into their proposed benefits.

Potential benefits of compression garments, based on current researching include:

  • Peripheral blood flow
  • Decreasing blood lactate concentration
  • Removal of byproduct produced during strenuous exercise, improving performance.
  • Increasing skin temperature during warm up
  • Mild to moderate benefits in reducing muscle soreness and EIMD
  • Some positive changes to strength and power on 24, 48 and 72 hour measures (Improved repetitive power including vertical jump height)
  • Measures of creatine kinase levels also show small benefits through the use of compression garments

Compression garments potentially offer some benefits across a variety of sports and activities, although the type and amount of improvements to recovery will vary between individuals. Be mindful when choosing compression gear and ensure correct fit to optimise recovery and facilitate optimal venous return.

Common Methods of recovery

Strong evidence for:
Nutrition and Hydration – Pre and post activity ingestion of appropsiate carbohydrates and protein
Sleep – increase the quality and quantity
Cold Water Immersion – or contrast water therapy depending on the level of EIMD and individual tolerances

Some evidence for:
Active Recovery – some research suggesting it may facilitate byproduct removal
Massage - no direct research on performance gains but decrease soreness and increased perceptions of recovery
Stretch – May increase ROM but potentially detrimental to performance in some sports depending on the level of damage
Compression Garments – ideal for long distance travel, byproduct removal, reducing inflammation.

1. Hill J, Howatson G, van Someren K, et al. Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: a meta-analysis Br J Sports Med 2014;48: 1340–1346.
2. Prof Greg Dupont: Post-Exercise Recovery: Best Evidence Future Strategy