If you've seen companies advertising compression clothing like socks or physical therapists performing compression medicine on athletes, you might have a vague understanding of compression therapy. Compression therapy relieves problems associated with poor blood circulation.
Some people suffer from conditions that impact their vein health. Others combat blood pressure complications. Commonly, people experience muscle soreness and slow recovery time after exercising or playing a sport. Compression therapy aids in improving these conditions and more.
Compression therapy benefits range from enhancing athletic performance and improving blood flow for people who spend hours on their feet daily to preventing the onset or worsening of health conditions. Here is a comprehensive look into the wide span of compression therapy benefits.
Compression Therapy Types
A variety of compression therapy styles exist to minimize risk and discomfort. Each tool offers a different pressure approach to circulation issues.
- Compression wraps - these bandages are long strips of flexible cloth that one uses to apply pressure to an area of physical strain. People commonly use compression wraps to treat minor injuries like ankle sprains.
- Compression clothing - most commonly seen as stockings, leggings, or shirts, compression clothes fit the body tightly to encase a muscle group. Compression sleeves vary in the pressure amount they apply. Some require physician prescriptions. Compression clothing is often seen in athletes.
- Pneumatic compression device (PCD) - this inflatable garment pairs with an electronic pump to apply heavier pressure than compression wraps or clothing. People wear them after completing long or rigorous workouts to redistribute blood flow for pain relief and fast muscle recuperation. Physical therapists use PCDs to rehabilitate severe injuries and patients commonly utilize these devices while recovering from surgery to prevent blood clots. Some pneumatic compression devices are condition-specific, like lymphedema pumps.
The body swells in response to infection or injury as veins distend when muscle tissue suffers damage. This dilation constricts circulation, leading to painful inflammation. One of the most significant benefits of compression therapy is that this treatment mitigates the subsequent symptoms.
Compression therapy's primary function is to improve blood flow, which redirects the pooling that happens during swelling. Once the compression restores circulation, inflammation dissipates. Some of the most common times people suffer swelling that compression therapy can help with include the following:
- Exercise - people can experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after an intense workout. It comes from swelling and typically occurs 24-48 hours after engaging in physical activity beyond the muscles' limits. Using a compression bandage or sleeve immediately after rigorous exercise lowers the symptom severity.
- Injury - protective fluid, proteins, and white blood cells travel to an injury site as a natural defense mechanism. The migration aids in healing but also causes painful swelling. For minor injuries, like ankle sprains, compression wraps apply moderate pressure to alleviate inflammation symptoms. Physical therapists often utilize pneumatic compression devices to speed up the healing process from significant injuries.
- Infection - a patient might receive a prescription for compression therapy to enhance circulation and promote blood supply so that the body can better eradicate metabolic waste that slows infection-fighting and tissue-rebuilding abilities.
- Standing for lengthy periods - compression wraps and garments for legs and feet are popular in fields like nursing and retail, where someone has to stand or walk for the entirety of a shift.
- Sitting for long periods - alternatively, maintaining a sitting position for consecutive hours limits circulation in the legs. People often suffer discomfort from a lack of proper blood flow during long drives or flights.
- Pregnancy - particularly during the later pregnancy stages, women can experience lower back, leg, and feet pain from the additional weight they carry. Compression therapy is a great treatment to relieve pain during pregnancy.
- Joint pain - people suffering from conditions like arthritis or who struggle with another type of joint pain can find relief in compression therapy. The inflammation diminishes through supportive pressure for the joints, which lessens pain.
- Vein complications - varicose veins, venous ulcers, and potentially life-threatening conditions like deep vein thrombosis cause severe swelling. Compression therapy restores proper blood flow to prevent ulcers and reverse pooling from vein blockages.
- Lymphedema and edema - lymphedema comes from vessel stoppage that causes lymphatic fluid to pool. It is a condition commonly associated with certain cancer treatments that impact the lymphatic system. Patients receive compression therapy to alleviate the blockages and disperse lymphatic fluid buildup. Edema shares similarities with lymphedema but deals with blood vessels rather than lymphatic ones, and compression therapy helps in the same way.
Improving Athletic Performance
Another compression therapy benefit is its positive impact on athleticism. Compression increases flexibility by heating the muscles, which brings a higher range of motion. It also bolsters blood oxygen quantities to quicken recovery time and prevent soreness.
Compression therapy is popular with athletes competing in endurance sports because it fosters the ability to train harder, longer, and more often with less muscle pain and faster restoration. Improving circulation speeds up eliminating deoxygenated blood that inhibits recovery time.
Muscle fatigue and stiffness hinder performance in sports like running, soccer, skiing, swimming, and certain martial arts. Compression therapy is popular among athletes competing in these disciplines.
Minimizing Visual Imperfections
Poor blood circulation can cause an increase in cellulite production and compression therapy can prevent new cellulite from forming as well as diminish the appearance of existing cellulite.
Other compression therapy benefits include reducing the appearance of visible veins by relieving internal pressure that engorges them. Gentler blood flow lends itself to a less harsh visual.
Blood Pressure Treatment
Orthostatic hypotension is a condition that causes dizziness, faintness, and nausea when a person stands from a sitting position. It happens due to a quick drop in blood pressure from weak circulation from the legs to the heart.
People who frequently suffer from these symptoms might benefit from wearing compression clothing or leg wraps to prevent the blood pooling that leads to orthostatic hypotension. Some pregnant women find that they experience less severe morning sickness, or general dizziness and nausea, from compression therapy.
Not for Everyone
For all of the compression therapy benefits, there are a few risks for people with certain physical circumstances. Here are some conditions in which compression therapy should not be used:
- directly over open sores - shallow open wounds need specific dressing to absorb drainage before compression bandages can go on top of them.
- on a patient with a predisposition to skin conditions - if someone has a likelihood of contracting a condition like a fungal infection or form of dermatitis, they have a higher risk of developing it from using compression garments. People can anticipate minor skin irritation like redness from compression bandages, but anything more serious should be avoided.
- on a patient with an arterial disease - patients with a poor arterial circulation status are not compatible with compression therapy.
The list of compression therapy benefits is long and varied, but the primary takeaways are that compression therapy improves circulation to lessen inflammation symptoms in a wide range of circumstances, treats some blood pressure complications, enhances athletic performance, and reduces vein and cellulite appearances.
Some medical conditions are incompatible with compression therapy, but generally, it is a powerful preventative and restorative treatment.